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In Motion

A Publication of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
sPorT plus physical therapy, LLC

Article 3: Regular Hamstring Stretching Prevents Injury
By Robert Gallo, MD

Hamstring strains are a common cause of recurring injury in sport and account for a significant amount of lost time for both the weekend warrior and professional athlete. Stretches to improve hamstring flexibility are frequently incorporated into work-out routines to minimize risk of injuries. Improved hamstring flexibility has been speculated to improve athletic performance.

Stretching exercises are divided into static, dynamic, and proprioceptive exercises.

Static routines are the traditional stretches that are commonly used in most training regimens. Static stretches have been proven to improve flexibility to a greater degree than dynamic stretches, which are also more likely to cause injury due to potential for uncontrolled stretch of the muscle. Studies have suggested that despite advantages in flexibility static stretching may actually decrease performance.

On the other hand, dynamic stretching has been shown to improve agility, speed, and strength. Therefore, a regular regimen of static stretching combined with dynamic stretching immediately prior to athletic activity may provide the optimal balance of improved performance and flexibility. The use and knowledge of the efficacy of proprioceptive techniques remains limited because of expertise required to perform the exercises correctly.

Most hamstring stretches vary in the position of the hip at the initiation of the stretch. Studies indicate that stretches that begin with the hip and pelvis flat are more effective than those in which the hip is flexed at 90 degrees. There appears to be no difference if the stretches are performed sitting versus standing.

Lasting improvements in flexibility are related to duration of stretching. Static stretches should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds to produce a significant effect in flexibility. While the exact number of repetitions and days necessary to produce lasting improvements in flexibility are controversial, most improvements gradually fade once stretching regimens are discontinued. There, in order to preserve gains in flexibility, stretching should be continued indefinitely.