Preventing sports injuries is one of the best ways to continue leading an active lifestyle. But doing so requires that you educate yourself about what not to do, from improper technique to inadequate preparation.
One of the biggest questions in this area surrounds the value of stretching. Is this time-honored warm up a boon to your health, or ballast that will weaken your bones and muscles?
Surprisingly, the data is mixed. Stretching is the most common form of preparation, of course, and most people believe that stretching helps limber up our muscles and minimize the risk of an unexpected sprain or tear. But not everyone agrees; a few well-designed studies have shown no specific benefit to stretching before exercise.
There is, at least, a good consensus on one point: stretching can’t hurt. Unless you are really overdoing it by maxing out your ligaments or straining to achieve unnatural positions, basic stretching is harmless, and may help in ways that go beyond basic muscle suppleness. Elevating your heart rate and drawing more oxygen, for instance, may help you perform better on the field.
Bottom line: stretch if it helps you feel good, but do not imagine that a quick stretch is any substitute for cultivating a deeper flexibility, or for staying in better shape. Good conditioning and rest will help you avoid more injuries than touching your toes anyday.