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Flexibility versus stretching
  1. Ian Shrier
  1. Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Community Studies SMBD-Jewish General Hospital Montreal, QC H3T 1E2, Canada ishrier{at}med.mcgill.ca
    1. Paul E Schur

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      Editor,—Dr Schur1 brings up an apparent discrepancy between my article,2 which suggests that stretching does not prevent injury, and that of Reid and McNair,3 which suggests that stretching may be beneficial in rowers. This is an apparent discrepancy for two reasons. My review of the literature discussed stretching immediately before exercise and not stretching in general. To my knowledge, there have only been two studies on stretching at times other than before exercise, and, although they both suggested it may be beneficial, both studies had limitations, and more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be made. Secondly, the article of Reid and McNair does not cite any research in which stretching has been shown to prevent injury. Rather, the argument is based on biomechanical concepts, which may or may not translate into an actual reduction of injury. That being said, I also agree with Dr Schur that there may also be differences between stretching to increase range of motion beyond what is necessary for activity, which includes most people who stretch before exercise, and stretching to increase range of motion when it is limited.

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      Author's reply

      I would like to make a couple of comments. Firstly, I would like to emphasise the point that I was making in my original letter. When discussing an ill defined procedure, as exemplified by “stretching”, it is important to be precise about what is being done to what, when, and for how long for comparisons to be made or for valid debate to proceed.

      Secondly, I agree that further studies need to be done, but care must be taken with exact definitions. I have heard it suggested that, in the context of slalom kayaking, both overstretching and understretching may be contributory factors in shoulder injury. In a complex biomechanical system, both statements may be equally true, depending on what one is considering in the kinetic chain.

      I hope that this contributes to the debate.

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