The USATF wanted to find the answer to that very question, so they recently did a 3 month long study of 3000 runners to find out exactly what factors do and don’t play a part in preventing injuries and in getting injured.
The results of their summary can answer that question in two words:
Here’s a video explaining the results:
(Download this Video)
The researchers weren’t able to really see a correlation between runners that stretched and runners that didn’t stretch. In fact a lot of the markers they expected to find playing a role in how likely you we’re to be injured really had no bearing on how likely you were to get injured. Some of those markers include:
- Weekly Mileage
- Level of Competition
- Age (Youth vs Masters runners)
They only found two really relevant markers that made increased your risk of injury:
- High body mass index
- Previous injury (more recent means more likely to get injured again)
No one in the study had had an injury within 6 weeks of when it started, which
is one of the controls that they used, so recent in t his case goes back about 3 months before the study had taken place.
The only other marker that they could really find an increased risk of injury in were people who were used to stretching before they went out for their runs but were assigned to the “don’t stretch before you run” control group.
The general take away from this study is that if you are used to stretching before your runs, you should definitely keep stretching. But if you aren’t used to stretching, there’s no real reason to start if what you’re concerned about is preventing injuries.
From my own personal experience I’ve found that stretching after a run does a far greater job of helping you recover from your runs and preventing injuries, as well as improving your performance in future runs, than stretching ahead of time.
The best advice that I can offer is to just get in a gentle warm up and make sure you’re not just going straight into a workout with cold muscles. Take a little bit of time afterwards to stretch out or self-massage on any of your sore parts when you are done running.