USA Track and Field, the governing body of the sport in the USA, is launching a study to determine the effectiveness of pre-run stretching on injury prevention. You can participate. From the USATF web site:
USATF is conducting a study to determine the effect of pre-run stretching on running injuries. The purpose of the study is to determine specifically if pre-run stretching of the three major leg muscle groups is beneficial for overall injury prevention or reduction. The study is not examining in-run or post-run stretching.
The stretches under study involve quadriceps, hamstrings, and achilles/calf. There has been considerable discussion in recent years in the running community regarding the efficacy of stretching. There are those who swear by it and those who swear at it. Personally, I don't like to stretch right before a run and certainly not immediately before a race. Instead, I have found light calisthenics and easy jogging to be preferable. I do a bit (maybe 20 to 30 minutes) of yoga-based stretching every morning to maintain range of motion, but that's outside of my running. I also find some light post-run stretching to be effective. The worst advice I have ever received is to stretch an injured muscle/joint. My experience is that this only does further damage and that stretching an injured area should only begin once the area has begun to heal, and the stretching should be very modest initially.
The results of the USATF will be interesting, and no doubt start some lively debate on the running boards.
I find pre-run stretching quite helpful. I usually stretch hamstrings and piriformis muscles (my problem areas) about 20 minutes prior to a run and it seems to keep things in check - at least I've been injury-free for the last couple of years. Which is not to say that post-run stretching wouldn't be even better but I've always been pretty lazy about stretching after a run ... the only post-run stretching I seem to do is stretching out on the couch with a beer.
I am always amused by the shit stirred up by the "Great Stretching Debate." I always just assumed that a runner would simply do what works best for them - if a pre-run stretch helps your performance, then bend and flex away. If not, don't bother.
As a former gymnast, I have a greater range of motion than the average person so I am less likely to injure myself by a light pre-run stretch. Plus, I find it helps calm my pre-race nerves (informal statistics - sample size, 1 - show that engaging in pre-race stretching results in two fewer trips to the portajohn).
Oy. After years of conflicting advice about stretching I decided a while ago to do what works for me- (save the stretching for post-workout).
But I'd still be curious to see what this study finds...
I always just assumed that a runner would simply do what works best for them - if a pre-run stretch helps your performance, then bend and flex away. If not, don't bother.
Good advice - however the USATF educates and certifies coaches, and USATF certification is required for coaching positions at most schools and colleges. Studies like these ensure that the information given to prospective and CE coaches is current best practice. Most students trying out for, or on, CC or track teams don't get the option whether to stretch or not - they do what the coach says or they walk.
The current advice is that pre-run stretching after a light warm up is an injury preventative. I think this is wrong, but I'll be glad to know what comes from the study.
I have been a participant in this study for over a month now. I was randomly assigned to the non-stretch group, which was fine with me as I have never believed in pre-run stretching. I too look forward to seeing the results of this study.