Fred Hahn has a great post on the value of stretching to prevent sports injury.
This is old news to many of us but worth repeating: there isn’t any.
I have a strong recollection of a friend hobbling off a squash court with a ripped tendon looking like she had been betrayed by fate. “But I stretched!”
Sadly stretching is not the prophylactic we’d like.
But lest we throw the baby out with the bath water, it should be noted that there is some value in stretching. And by that I mean the primal form of stretching that we and many other mammals engage in before sleep and upon rising: the BIG stretch.
A good stretch at night has been shown to aid in better sleep patterns by triggering activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the “relaxation response”).
Parasympathetic stimulation encourages digestion and absorption of food. Heart rate slows, and the force of the heart’s contraction decreases. Blood pressure returns to resting level. Breathing becomes slower and deeper. Skeletal muscles relax. The production of stress hormones stops, and your body recovers its homeostasis – Ref
And in the morning? The stretch is a quick way to improve circulation to the entire body lest we fall all over ourselves as we trip out of bed. It’s not necessary for everyone but, sadly, seems increasingly needed as one ages…
So in that sense you could say that stretching prevents injury… but don’t count on it to stop your Achilles tendon from rupturing when you are a forty-something running around the squash court.