The New York Times summarizes some recent research that suggests stretching before exercise may not be all that valuable -- unless your body is used to that. They also found that stretching in general should not be static like touching your toes, but dynamic, which basically endorses all those fancy forms of skipping and the like you see people doing these days.
Note comment No. 25 on the story, from someone named "P":
I've said this many times. 40 years ago, no one stretched before a basketball game. We were rarely injured. We went out slow, did the two lines drill, broke into shooting time, and then started the game.
Today, they stretch for an hour prior to a game, and there is no difference -- it’s a waste of time ...
Meanwhile, people like Michael Jordan's trainer Tim Grover have changed basketball forever by fostering athleticism that is off the charts. And if you talk to Grover, he'll tell you sport-specific stretching should be a huge part of any athlete's routine.
I'd be interested to understand how this all fits together.
I should disclose that I'm not coming at this topic as an unbiased observer. In my own life, I've found that stretching before I exercise does nothing at all.
But afterward, for me, it could not be more essential. Basically, if I play basketball, or go for a longish run, and don't go through a series of stretches afterward, it's a stone cold guarantee I'll have excitingly painful and debilitating lower back spasms the next morning. On the other hand, if I do stretch -- and trust me, I do -- I never have any back pain at all. Just by figuring this out, I've been able to go years and years without spasms, and I expect I'll never have them again. If I feel the slightest tightness, I just stretch it all out and I'm good to go.
And this all circles back to the NBA. If you've ever shown up early to watch an NBA game, you've seen trainers out there on the floor helping players limber up with some good solid pregame static stretching -- the exact kind researchers have found does little, if anything.
What's not common, however, is seeing the same thing -- or any stretching -- after the game. Even if you have locker room access. I'm sure some players do limber up postgame, but I'm even more certain most don't. Players listen to the coach, shower, get dressed, talk to the press and then head out to restaurants, hotels or home wearing suits and the like, looking like people who are not worried about hamstring tension. All but the first 10 minutes of that happens right in front of reporters, too.
Sure they'll be a guy in the training room here or there. But I know if I followed the NBA routine of showering and going to dinner after games, I'd spend my days much like I spent a chunk of my honeymoon: hopped up on muscle relaxers and painkillers, telling long stories that trail off into nothingness and smiles. (Come to think of it, that's not entirely unlike what I do for a living.)