To Stretch or Not To Stretch: Should you waste your time?

By Emily Haglage, PT, DPT from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush

Image result for static vs dynamic stretch

The American College of Sports Medicine states that adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That is about 20 minutes a day. Stretching is not considered to be a moderate-intensity exercise. So, do we need to add 5-10 minutes of stretching prior to our workout, like our coaches always told us? In recent years, there has been much debate over different ways to stretch and which way is the safest and most effective. There are many different types of stretching techniques, but today we are only considering two types: static and dynamic.


Static stretching is lengthening the muscle while holding a particular pose for an extended period of time, such as propping your leg up onto a chair, leaning forward, and stretching your hamstring for 30 seconds.

Dynamic stretching is elongating the muscle while completing a movement. For example, running with high knees or walking lunges. So, how do we know when to perform each type of stretching?


Static Stretching

A strong amount of research supports the effects of static stretching to be performed after a warm up, but prior to your full workout, especially if you do not have the full range of motion to complete the activity. However, there are many current research articles that raise the negative effects of static stretching. One study states, “A longer stretch duration (i.e. >60 s) are more likely to cause a small or moderate reduction in performance,” which could lead you to a higher risk of injury.

Another study looked at performance of collegiate sprinters with and without static stretching. That study found, “ significant slowing in performance with static stretching… Therefore, in strict terms of performance, it seems harmful to include static stretching in the warm-up protocol of collegiate male sprinters.” Looking at this from a broader perspective, if you are want to participate in a sport such as jogging, evidence supports that there is no need for a specific static stretching routine.

● Perform after a warm up, but prior to a full workout

● Hold stretch less than 45 seconds

● Decreases speed and power

● May have little effect on long-term flexibility, and could increase your risk for injury

Dynamic Stretching

Research seems to lean towards dynamic stretching as the most beneficial form of stretching prior to any type of exercise or sport routine. In fact, most studies found that it was beneficial to perform dynamic stretching in order to reverse negative effects of static stretching. One researcher group discovered, “ Athletes in sports requiring [leg] power should use dynamic stretching techniques in warm-up to enhance flexibility while improving performance”.

Another research article found that dynamically stretching your hamstrings can actually decrease tightness and improve flexibility over a period of 6 weeks, and therefore significantly decrease low back pain. Not only does dynamic stretching warm up your muscles, but it wakes up your central nervous system which can prepare your body for a tough workout.

● Perform after statically stretching (if you choose this modality of stretching)

● Beneficial for the athlete participating in a sport with less pivoting movements such as swimming or jogging

● Can decrease muscle tightness and improve flexibility

● Helps to decrease your risk of injury


Emily_Haglage.jpgEmily Haglage is a graduate of Saint Louis University where she received her bachelor’s of science degree in exercise science and doctorate in physical therapy. She treats a variety of orthopedic injuries with special interest in knee injuries including patellofemoral pain, meniscus injuries, ligamentous injuries, arthritis and post-operative total knee replacements. She enjoys working closely with athletes by performing Functional Sports Assessments (FSAs) which give physicians more assurance that their patients are safe to return to sports such as basketball, football, soccer, tennis and hockey.

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Introducing the first-ever mascot specialist doctor at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush – the one and only Benny The Bull!

Chicago recreational basketball player recovers after Achilles rupture

basketball patient

“I heard a ‘bang’ and then felt as if someone stomped on the back of my left calf, slamming me down to the court. But, when I looked up, both the basketball and the other players were all several feet away staring at me. That’s when I knew I likely had a serious problem.”

This is how Ganesh Sundaram, 31, of Chicago, describes the incident that left him with a ruptured left Achilles tendon earlier this year. “I was playing with a bunch of friends on the weekend and went up for a rebound. Then, I quickly reversed my direction to get back on defense,” he explains. “I later found out that this rapid deceleration followed by acceleration and change of direction is a common cause of injury to the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel.”

He felt numbness, then pain as he limped off the court. He went directly to the nearest emergency department where the physician on duty conducted the Thompson test to determine whether or not his Achilles tendon was intact. After his foot hung loosely when his calf was squeezed, the physician told him it was most likely a full rupture and should see a foot and ankle specialist right away. Sundaram, at the suggestion of his brother-in- law (a Chicago-area physician), made an appointment with Dr. Simon Lee of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. Dr. Lee, an expert in treating Achilles injuries, confirmed the diagnosis and presented options for both surgical and non-surgical repair of his tendon.

Given Sundaram’s very active lifestyle which included a regular fitness and full-court basketball regimen, Tough Mudder/Spartan races and keeping up with his toddler son, he chose surgery given the higher likelihood of returning to full pre-injury function, strength and mobility. They also discussed the warning signs that Sundaram experienced several months earlier. After running in high heat while dehydrated and on vacation, Sundaram felt stiffness and pain in his left Achilles tendon when getting up after a long flight home.

Concerned, he took a rest from running, jumping and basketball for a few weeks but maintained the rest of his fitness regimen. He then resumed these activities once he felt minimal discomfort, but didn’t do any pre-activity stretching or warming up and he didn’t see a physician. Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush foot and ankle physicians explain that this scenario is becoming more and more common in their practices. “Over a recent ten-year period, we have seen our number of Achilles patients increase by almost 300 percent,” explains Dr. Lee.

So many more people are participating in extreme sports, like Tough Mudders, marathons and Spartan Races. They aren’t stretching or strengthening their Achilles tendons properly – or at all. We also see lots of weekend warriors who do the same thing.

For both types of athletes, Dr. Lee and his fellow foot and ankle physicians created aMOR300x250 useful resource for athletes to keep their ankles and tendons healthy called ‘Ankles for Life’. It includes injury prevention tips in both a downloadable brochure and video format. It was developed in conjunction with the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association. Sundaram, who is now back to basketball and working out, knows that he should have listened to his body when he had heel pain several months before the rupture.

“Dr. Lee told me that surgeons have a saying that ‘healthy tendons don’t rupture’. Mine was irritated or maybe even partially torn at the time and I should have attended to it earlier,” he says. Sundaram now incorporates lower body and heel stretching and strengthening into his routine before any sports activity – and encourages all athletes to do so.

For more information on preventing Achilles injuries and to request a gym bag tag with ankle injury prevention tips, visit the Ankles for Life website.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Simon Lee to discuss your foot or ankle condition, click here or call 877-MD- BONES.

Meet the White Sox’s New Top Doc

Head team physician discusses his role keeping players on field

Dr. Nik Verma from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush will be discussing his new role with Dr. Brian Cole & Steve Kashul on ESPN Chicago, Sports Medicine Weekly this coming Saturday, April 8th at 8:30AM . Tune in to WMVP AM 1000 to hear how he and the other team physicians at Rush help keep Sox players healthy through the long baseball season.