The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of the literature

Man Ther. 2003 Aug;8(3):141-50. doi: 10.1016/s1356-689x(03)00010-9.


The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic analysis of the literature to assess the efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) investigating stretching as an injury prevention measure were selected. A computer-aided search of the literature was conducted for relevant articles, followed by assessment of the methods of the studies. The main outcome measures were scores for methodological quality based on four main categories (study population, interventions, measurement of effect, and data presentation and analysis) and main conclusions of authors with regard to stretching. One RCT (25%) and three CCTs (100%) concluded that stretching reduced the incidence of exercise-related injury. Three RCTs (75%) concluded that stretching did not reduce the incidence of exercise-related injury. Only two studies scored more than 50 points (maximum score=100 points) indicating that most of the studies selected were of poor quality. Neither of the two highest scoring RCTs showed positive effects for stretching. Due to the paucity, heterogeneity and poor quality of the available studies no definitive conclusions can be drawn as to the value of stretching for reducing the risk of exercise-related injury.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / complications*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Isotonic Contraction
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Research Design / standards
  • Treatment Outcome