A systematic review into the efficacy of static stretching as part of a warm-up for the prevention of exercise-related injury.
Competitive and recreational athletes typically perform warm-up and stretching activities to prepare for more strenuous exercise. These preliminary activities are used to enhance physical performance and to prevent sports-related injuries. Warm-up techniques are primarily used to increase body temperature and are classified in 3 major categories: (a) passive warm-up - increases temperature by some external means; (b) general warm-up - increases temperature by nonspecific body movements; and (c) specific warm-up - increases temperature using similar body parts that will be used in the subsequent, more strenuous activity. The best of these appears to be specific warm-up because this method provides a rehearsal of the activity or event. The intensity and duration of warm-up must be individualised according to the athlete's physical capabilities and in consideration of environmental factors which may alter the temperature response. The majority of the benefits of warm-up are related to temperature-dependent physiological processes. An elevation in body temperature produces an increase in the dissociation of oxygen from haemoglobin and myoglobin, a lowering of the activation energy rates of metabolic chemical reactions, an increase in muscle blood flow, a reduction in muscle viscosity, an increase in the sensitivity of nerve receptors, and an increase in the speed of nervous impulses. Warm-up also appears to reduce the incidence and likelihood of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries. Improving flexibility through stretching is another important preparatory activity that has been advocated to improve physical performance. Maintaining good flexibility also aids in the prevention of injuries to the musculoskeletal system. Flexibility is defined as the range of motion possible around a specific joint or a series of articulations and is usually classified as either static or dynamic. Static flexibility refers to the degree to which a joint can be passively moved to the end-points in the range of motion. Dynamic flexibility refers to the degree which a joint can be moved as a result of a muscle contraction and may therefore not be a good indicator of stiffness or looseness of a joint. There are 3 basic categories of stretching techniques: (a) ballistic--which makes use of repetitive bouncing movements; (b) static--which stretches the muscle to the point of slight muscle discomfort and is held for an extended period; and (c) proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation - which uses alternating contractions and stretching of the muscles. Each of these stretching methods is based on the neurophysiological phenomenon involving the stretch reflex.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)