Ask the Docs | Stretching Before Basketball

Posted January 17, 2006

Patient Question:

I recently pulled my hamstring during a game even though I stretched thoroughly before playing. Some of my teammates rarely stretch and they don’t seem to get hurt. Does stretching really do any good?

Dr. Trish Palmer:

I think you’ve just experienced a bit of bad luck. You’re right, however, in noticing that stretching does not guarantee you won’t get hurt. In fact, poor stretching technique can actually increase the incidence of sports related injuries!

Sometimes, athletes stretch too vigorously and fatigue the muscle before serious activity begins. This makes it more likely that you’ll pull a muscle.

Treatment Options:

Stretching the right way is paramount. The key to proper stretching lies in the way you perform the exercises. When you are stretching certain parts of your body, you should not feel pain. Staying relaxed is also very important. Make sure your body is not tight. Your shoulders, hands, and feet should be kept relaxed as you stretch. Breathe slowly.

Your stretching regimen should be comprehensive: spend equal time on your lower back, hips and groin, knee and calf muscles, shoulders, and of course your hamstrings. It’s also a good idea to stretch after exercise. Studies have shown that this in even more beneficial than stretching before activity.

As far as your pulled hamstring is concerned, make sure to ice the muscle regularly and practice–you guessed it–gentle stretching exercises until you’re back on the court!

For more information about Dr. Palmer and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, team physicians for the Chicago Bulls, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at

The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.

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