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Stretching plays a vital role in injury prevention and any athlete that doesn’t warm up and stretch their muscles prior to training and competition runs a much higher risk of picking up injuries.

Stretching doesn’t just help an athlete reduce the risk of injury - it also has a number of other benefits, like improved circulation and posture as well as providing an athlete with the time to mentally prepare and focus.

Top coaches say that a complete stretching routine can take as little as ten minutes. Muscles should always be stretched after they’ve become warm. Although it’s advisable to do a full body stretching routine, athletes should give special attention to the areas they use most in their particular sport.

The recommended stretches to prevent serious injuries are to the hamstrings, hips, calves, quadriceps and lower back. Pulling or tearing muscles in these areas can cause significant pain and keep an athlete on the sidelines for months.

Any athlete unsure about stretching exercises should consult their coach or a physician for advice on how long they should stretch for and the exercises that will help them prevent injury.

We have more information on stretching in the articles listed below, with lots of useful help and advice relating to specific sports.