Although stretching exercises are thought to prevent injury and improve performance, stretching should not be considered a fix all. For some athletes excessive flexibility may destabilize joints and may actually increase the likelihood of ligament and joint separation or dislocation. Another argument is that stretching may lead to joint hypermobility. Hypermobility is said to be present when the joint is lax and the range of motion is in the excess of the normal range. In turn, hypermobility may be a factor in decreased positional sense (propriopceptive acuity), which may increase the risk of acute or chronic injury. Some experts feel that excessively loose joints may leave to premature development of osteoarthritis in athletes.
So what are the precautions for stretching, and when is it considered inadvisable to stretch? The most commonly cited precautions are listed below.
- A bone blocks motion;
- you recently fractured a bone;
- you suspect or know of an acute inflammatory or infectious in or around a joint;
- you have osteoporosis;
- you experience sharp, acute pain with joint movement or muscle elongation;
- you’ve had a recent sprain or strain;
- your joint lacks stability;
- you experience a loss of function or decrease in range of motion.
If you have doubts or questions wether a stretch is right for you, consult a physical therapist, athletic trainer, or medical professional.