Something I found on the MSN News Page:

The Truth about Stretching
Owen Wood
CBC News Online

For years, people have believed stretching before playing sports or doing other physical activity is a good way to prevent exercise-related injuries.
However, scientists are now saying there isn’t any evidence to back up this widely-held belief.

In the September issue of the medical journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Dr. Ian Shrier, of Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, summarizes a 1999 study on the effectiveness of stretching.

For the study, 1538 Australian army recruits took part in a 12-week program made up of route marching, running, obstacle climbing, circuit training, swimming and battle training. Before each session, the participants did active warm-up exercises, such as jogging and sidestepping, but only half were allowed to do stretches. The stretch group performed one 20-second static stretch for each of the six major leg muscle groups – gastrocnemius, soleus, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip adductors and hip flexors.

In the end, a total of 333 lower-limb injuries were reported during the project. However, when the scientists looked at who was getting injured, they found that the two groups were almost the same. The stretch group reported 158 injuries and the group that wasn’t allowed to stretch saw 175 injuries.

Dr. Rodney Pope, of the Kapooka Health Centre in New South Wales, Australia, who co-wrote the report, said the results were enough to conclude that, when it comes to reducing the risk of injury, stretching has no significant effect at all.

The Australian study appeared in the February 2000 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. The team’s work was also written about in New Scientist magazine in December 1999.

Along with Dr. Kav Gossal of St. Mary’s Hospital Centre at McGill University, Shrier also recently wrote an article reviewing current literature on stretching and the motion range of muscles, which appeared in the August issue of The Physician and Sportsmedicine.

In that study, the authors say the facts about stretching are “clouded by misconceptions.”

The review covers a wide-range of issues, from the use of stretches to relieve muscle pain to their effectiveness in improving performance, with varying conclusions. But in regards to the effect of stretching on reducing injuries, their findings mimicked those of the Australian study.

“If injury prevention is the primary objective, and the range of motion necessary for an activity is not extreme, the evidence suggests that athletes should drop the stretching before exercise and increase the warm-up,” the article said.

Shrier and Gossal found jogging, for example, has been shown to decrease stiffness of calf muscles and can lower the risk of injury.

But Shrier says stretching isn’t always a waste of time.

He says one of the benefits is that it helps relieve pain after exercising. When people stretch a muscle, they’re actually increasing its ability to move or expand. This means that the same force exerted on a muscle that’s been stretched will cause less pain than on a muscle that hasn’t been stretched.

Although this has only been shown in research on healthy tissue, Shrier suspects people with injuries can probably increase their tolerance of pain by stretching as well.