FPIN's Help Desk Answers

Stretching for Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury


Am Fam Physician. 2016 Oct 1;94(7):547.

Clinical Question

Does stretching reduce the risk of injury during exercise?

Evidence-Based Answer

Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of injury. (Strength of Recommendation [SOR]: B, based on meta-analyses of lower-quality randomized controlled trials [RCTs].) However, it may slightly reduce postexercise muscle soreness. (SOR: B, based on an RCT.)

A 2011 systematic review studied the effect of various interventions—including stretching—over five days to one year on the prevention of lower-limb soft tissue overuse injuries.1 In six trials (N = 5,130), stretching did not decrease lower-limb soft tissue injuries (relative risk [RR] = 0.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.65 to 1.1).

A 2008 systematic review of four RCTs (N = 3,953) and three controlled clinical trials (CCTs; N >

Address correspondence to John B. Waits, MD, FAAFP, at john.waits@cahabamedicalcare.com. Reprints are not available from the authors.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


show all references

1. Yeung SS, et al. Interventions for preventing lower limb soft-tissue running injuries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD001256....

2. Small K, et al. A systematic review into the efficacy of static stretching as part of a warm-up for the prevention of exercise-related injury. Res Sports Med. 2008;16(3):213–231.

3. Goldman EF, et al. Interventions for preventing hamstring injuries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(1):CD006782.

4. Herbert RD, et al. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD004577.

Help Desk Answers provides answers to questions submitted by practicing family physicians to the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN). Members of the network select questions based on their relevance to family medicine. Answers are drawn from an approved set of evidence-based resources and undergo peer review. The strength of recommendations and the level of evidence for individual studies are rated using criteria developed by the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group (http://www.cebm.net/?o=1025).

The complete database of evidence-based questions and answers is copyrighted by FPIN. If interested in submitting questions or writing answers for this series, go to http://www.fpin.org or email: questions@fpin.org.

This series is coordinated by John E. Delzell Jr., MD, MSPH, Assistant Medical Editor.


Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

CME Quiz

More in AFP

Editor's Collections

Related Content

More in Pubmed


May 1, 2017

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article