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The Relationship Between Fatigue, Eccentric Hamstring Muscle Strength and Potential Injury

Researchers from the United Kingdom took 10 male professional soccer players and completed an intermittent treadmill protocol that simulated a soccer match and halftime interval.  Before the start of exercise and every subsequent 15 minutes each player was tested for their eccentric hamstring strength.  Eccentric hamstring strength is responsible for slowing down the leg and thought to prevent hamstring injury during explosive movements by counteracting the forceful quads and knee extension.

Results showed eccentric hamstrings strength decreased over time and after the passive simulated halftime.  As time and testing continued, hamstring strength decreased.  They also studied at which speeds of movement the hamstrings strength decreased.  Both of these indicate muscle strain injury was likely as game time increased and with faster movements, such as sprinting and explosive movements. Discussion followed that suggested to incorporate eccentric knee flexor exercises into training and also after conditioning.  A series of small sided games during practice could be followed by hamstring exercises to simulate the game time fatigue.  A hamstring exercise noted was the Nordic hamstrings curl which requires you to resist falling forward by using the hamstrings.

Also suggested was to properly re-warm the body following halftime when players are likely to be sitting still.  Hamstring strength did not return to pre-exercising levels during halftime which may lead to increased injury at the beginning of the second half.

The researchers note that strength training for hamstring eccentric strength at high speeds should be considered and also be a criteria for return to play following injury.

Greig M, Siegler J. Soccer-specific fatigue and eccentric hamstrings muscle strength. J Athl Train. 2009;44(2):180–184.

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