Strength training and balance exercises are more likely to help prevent sports injuries than stretching, a new look at the evidence suggests.
"If you could do some kind of strength training ... that would be our best (recommendation) for now. But we need more studies to confirm these results in order to be totally sure," said Jeppe Lauersen, who led the review of past studies at the Institute of Sports Medicine Copenhagen at Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark.
The researchers combined data from studies that randomly assigned people, mostly adult or teenage athletes, to groups that either completed certain exercises or did not. The studies followed participants to see who got injured over periods ranging from months to a year.
The final analysis included 25 trials and more than 26,000 participants, including soccer, basketball and handball players and army recruits.
Some of the studies tracked all possible injuries. Others had a more specific focus, for example, looking only at hamstring injuries or knee injuries related to overuse. Overall, researchers analyzed close to 3,500 injuries.
Lauersen and his colleagues found three studies that looked at stretching programs and showed no benefit for averting injury.
The limited data "do not support the use of stretching for injury prevention purposes, neither before or after exercise."
Br J Sports Med 2013.