Stretching before an athletic activity does not appear to help prevent tendon injuries, according to a study that analyzed several past studies. It found no evidence of any benefit for stretching exercises in preventing tendinopathy, which is inflammation or tears to the tendons.
The study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, examined 10 studies of preventive interventions, such as exercises, stretches, shoe adaptations, or treatments. The studies involved the ankle, knee, hip, groin, shoulder, and elbow. Only three interventions were found to provide any protective effects.
Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands evaluated the data in the studies and found that there was evidence to support the use of shock-absorbing insoles to help prevent injuries to the Achilles tendon, the tendon at the back of the heel that connects the calf muscles to the foot. Balance training for soccer players was found to be effective in preventing damage to the Achilles tendon and to the tendons of the patella, or knee cap. Hormone replacement therapy appears to reduce the risk of damage to the Achilles tendon in women athletes who are post-menopausal.
They found that stretching, which is widely practiced by athletes in many types of sports, does not appear to protect the tendons. One type of intervention, eccentric training and stretching, appears to increase the risk of injury in some athletes who have tendon abnormalities around their knees.
Tendons are the thick elastic-like connections between bones. Ligaments are similar, but connect a muscle to a bone. If a tendon becomes inflamed, the condition is called tendinitis, one form of tendinopathy. Tendon injuries and inflammation tend to recur at the same site, often due to overuse, and can be very painful. Different sports tend to cause injuries to different tendons. Runners often suffer injuries to the Achilles tendon while sports that involve jumping may cause injuries to the tendons in the knees.