Does stretching before disc golf reduce the chance of injury?

Imagine avoiding beer for decades only to learn, near the end of your life, that drinking three beers a day lowers blood pressure, benefits heart health, strengthens bones and generally prolongs life.

I recently had a similar, if less extreme, revelation while reading an academic journal article about disc golf injuries. A new study by Rahbek and Nielsen found that disc golfers who warmed up for 20 minutes or more were nearly twice as likely to have an injury than people who warmed up for two or fewer minutes (1).

What the…?

I’ve played several sports over the decades and always went through a warm-up routine involving stretching prior to practice or competition. For instance, the coach of my college rowing team, a Ph.D. in sports science, put us through a 25-minute stretching routine before every practice and race.

Rahbek and Nielen’s surprising finding may be reasonably explained away. It could be that disc golfers who have sustained an injury in the past are more likely to both stretch and have reoccurring injuries. Put differently, it may be that stretching doesn’t cause injury; rather, disc golfers who are prone to injury (or who push their bodies with frequent play) are more likely to stretch.

While the disc golf study is inconclusive, numerous other studies have found that stretching before or after playing does not reduce the chance of injury. The gold standard for research in this area is a large-scale, meta-analysis by Thacker and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2). These folks carefully reviewed 361 published studies and concluded that “Stretching was not significantly associated with a reduction in total injuries” (2, p. 371).

Other review studies came to similar conclusions (3). Although some contrary evidence exists (4), more studies, and high-caliber studies, suggest that stretching before or after playing disc golf will not reduce your chance of injury.

For me, stretching ranks up there with activities like flossing, waiting in line at the grocery store, and uncoiling a knotted extension cord. I, for one, may never stretch again.

But if you insist on stretching before playing disc golf, you might consider dynamic stretching as opposed to static stretching. A video, posted below, by Disc Golf Strong offers the same advice.

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References

(1) Rahbek, M.A., and R.O. Nielsen (2016). Injuries in Disc Golf – A descriptive cross-sectional study. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 11 (1): 132-40.

(2) Thacker, S.B., J. Gilchrist, D.F. Stroup, and C.D. Kimsey (2004). The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36 (3): 371-8.

(3) Hart, L. (2005). Effect of stretching on sport injury risk: a review. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: Official Journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, 15 (2).

(4) Stojanovic MD, and SM Ostojic (2011). Stretching and injury prevention in football: current perspectives. Research in Sports Medicine, 19 (2): 73-91.

Photo sources: Averyjenkins.net, Disc Golf Strong

Video source: Disc Golf Strong at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NFe9esEzD8

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