Aug 1, 2016Keeping Hamstrings Strong
While they don’t get the attention that more high-profile conditions do, hamstring injuries are chronic problems for athletes regardless of the sport they play. And the lengthy recovery time often associated with them can be frustrating. Now, researchers are hoping that a new hamstring strengthening program can keep athletes on the field.
A study presented at the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) annual meeting outlined a program that showed promise in not only reducing the frequency of the injury in athletes but shortening the amount of time missed by those who do suffer it.
Lead researcher Holly Silvers-Granelli, MPT, explained that she selected 213 athletes from one professional baseball organization — 40 players from the major league team and 173 players from five different minor league clubs — to participate in the study.
After each athlete completed a questionnaire that detailed his hamstring injury history, the teams’ medical staffs — including physicians, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches — were given parameters of the program, along with instructions on how to implement it. Exercises for the athletes included both concentric and eccentric hamstring exercises and lumbo-pelvic stability.
Researchers monitored the rates of program compliance for the athletes in both groups and then tracked the rate of hamstring injuries and the time lost to those injuries. At the end of the season, the data was analyzed, and compared to an age and skill-matched control group from Major League Baseball.
The rate of hamstring injury was significantly lower for both the major and minor-leaguers who participated in the program. Major leaguers saw a 25 percent reduction in the rate of injury, while the minor leaguers saw their injury rate decreased by 40 percent.
In addition, players in both groups who did suffer a hamstring injury saw their time on the sidelines greatly reduced. The major leaguers lost an average of nine days — compared to 25.9 days for members of the control group. Meanwhile, the minor leaguers lost an average of 11.63 days compared to the 21.3 days lost by minor leaguers in the control group.
The study is going to continue for an additional season, and researchers are still trying to determine the best way to implement these types of prevention programs. However, they are pleased with the findings and confident that the information will be useful for both athletes and medical professionals.
“Our study confirmed that utilizing hamstring injury prevention programs can help lessen lost play time and be a cost efficient way to do so. Further research is needed to fine tune the best mechanisms for these injury reduction programs,” Silvers-Granelli said.
Coaches should consider adding the Nordic hamstring exercise to their strength training program. This is an eccentric hamstring strengthening exercise that elicits greater activation of the hamstring compared to many other exercises. A website called thesportsphysiotherapist.com contains information on performing the Nordic hamstring exercise and has a video on how to perform it properly.
An article on the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) website states that an eccentric exercise series is an effective way to strengthen hamstrings. Using eccentric box drops as a sample series, the article recommends that the athlete “begins by stepping up onto a box (12 to 36 inches high). He or she then steps off the box and lands in a squat position.” The article advises: “Do not land in a static position. Allow for full flexion of the hips, knees, and ankles upon foot contact. To end the exercise, place the hands on the knees and push up into a standing position; do not jump out of the bottom position. Do not perform more than 12 drops in a set.”
The NSCA article also suggests that athletes perform the following additional eccentric box drop exercises: eccentric backward steps; eccentric loaded lunge drops; eccentric forward pulls; eccentric stiff-leg dead lifts and concentric Romanian dead lifts; eccentric single-leg dead lifts; and eccentric split-stance Zerchers. Click here to read the full story.
Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at High School Athlete Performance.