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Stretching vs Strengthening...which is more beneficial to prevent injuries?

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

Squat exercises at the gym that were prescribed in physiotherapy
Strengthening has been shown to be more beneficial then stretching

There has certainly been debate about how important stretching is as part of an exercise routine.  Should stretching be done before or after activity? Will stretching help to prevent injury?

We also continually hear about the important health benefits of doing regular exercise. Osteoarthritis, diabetes, hypertension, depression, obesity and osteoporosis are a few of the conditions that regular exercise can help control or eliminate. However, a risk of being involved in sport or physical activity is that of becoming injured. So, with knowing the benefit of staying active and fit, but wanting to reduce the risk of injury associated with performing sport and physical activity, what type of exercise should we be doing to help to reduce injury risk? 

A systematic review and meta-analysis by a group of researchers looked at this question. Is stretching or strengthening better at reducing the risk of injury.

The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Lauersen et al, 2014

The main conclusion of the study showed:

  • That physical activity was shown to effectively reduce sports injuries.

  • Stretching proved no beneficial effect related to reducing injury risk

  • When it comes to injury prevention strength training was best at reducing risk of injury.

  • Multiple exposure programs (combined strength, stretch and proprioception training) was shown to be less effective then strengthening programs alone

  • Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than one-third and overuse injuries almost half

Physiotherapists are experts in exercise and movement prescription. Knowing what type of exercises to give for injury recovery and injury prevention is what sets them apart from other health care professions.  With their vast understanding of anatomy, pathology and associated risk factors, they are the ideal health care professional to promote and manage exercise in all populations and across the lifespan. “Physiotherapy is not limited to rehabilitation of injury and the effects of disease or disability. A physiotherapist also provides education and advice for health promotion, disease and injury prevention.” CPA

Waterloo Sports Medicine Centre is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary facility that provides an evidence-based treatment approach by highly-skilled health care clinicians in Kitchener, Waterloo and surrounding area.

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