Isn’t Stretching Supposed to Prevent Injuries?

Stretching has recently gotten some bad press.Various studies and articles looking at runners, army recruits and soccer players have come to light suggesting that stretching doesn’t actually prevent injuries. If you want to read summaries of some of these articles check out www.runnersworld.com/article/0,5033,s6-197-200-0-7001,00.html and www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0852.htm.

So does that mean that we all should stop stretching?Not at all!These studies were mostly conducted on running athletes.Running has quite a small range of motion, and very few people find flexibility to be the limiting factor in how far or fast they can run.

Martial artists in general spend much more time at the limits of their range of motion.Just think about how much more flexibility is required for high kicks compared to running down the street.Grapplers in particular end up in all sorts of contorted positions on the mat: they need strength and flexibility in their whole body. Even if your game doesn’t require flexibility you may not have control over what positions you end up in: an over-eager opponent might tie you in a pretzel, and without flexibility you are just cruising for an injury.

These studies make fascinating reading for those interested in exercise science.They come to some surprising conclusions, but I think it would be premature to stop stretching if you are also challenging your body with the rigors of grappling.

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