Hamstring injuries are some of the most common and career threatening injuries among athletes. They are usually common among athletes who take part in sports that involve jumping, running or kicking like Gaelic Football. The other factor that makes hamstring injuries the most feared in sport is because they have a high chance of reoccurring if the necessary measures are not taken. Majority of hamstring injuries recur mostly two weeks after returning to the field and the subsequent injury is usually severe that the initial one (Devlin, p6).
If the right measures are not taken, hamstring injuries can have serious effects on the career of an athlete or bring it to an abrupt end. Many hamstring injuries usually occur in the late swing phase when running. Moreover, majority of hamstring injuries normally affect the long head of the biceps femoris. This can be attributed to the functional and architectural differences between hamstring muscles and other muscles.
The hamstring is made up of four muscles namely the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, the long head of the biceps femoris and the short head of biceps femoris. Until recently, hamstring muscles were considered a single group of muscles with the same activation patterns during hip extension or knee flexion. However, the recent discovery of architectural differences between different hamstring muscles showed that each has its intrinsic function. More specifically, the short head of biceps femoris and the semitendinosus are relatively thin and have long fibers that are arranged in a parallel manner (Schache et al, p8). Moreover, they have lower cross-sectional area. These features make them more suited to contracting over long distances with high speed and low force. On the other hand, the semimembranosus and the long head of the biceps femoris are bulky and have short pennate fibers, and are therefore more suited for high production of force.
It is important to understand how hamstring injuries occur before thinking about how to prevent them. It is generally assumed that one of the main reasons why hamstring muscles are susceptible to injuries is because of their structural arrangement. The hamstring muscle group is a biarticular group which work by extending the hip and flexing the knee. During daily movements, flexion of the knee and the hip take place simultaneously, with contrasting effects on the length of the hamstring. In Gaelic Football, hamstring injuries normally occur when players are running. Research shows that hamstring injuries mostly come about during the late stages of the swing phase when hamstring muscles are decelerating the knee extension (Devlin, p12).
In other words, hamstring muscles develop tension while at the same time they are expanding (Devlin, p12). This means that the hamstring muscles stop functioning eccentrically to slow knee extension in the late swing, and start functioning concentrically. It is widely believed that it is during this speedy change from functioning eccentrically to functioning concentrically that the hamstring muscle is most susceptible to injury.
Physiology of Eccentric Exercise
The phase of muscle contraction that takes place when muscle shortens is referred to as concentric whereas the contraction phase that takes place when the muscle lengthen is referred to as eccentric. In daily activities, concentric action initiate movements while eccentric ones slow or stop activity. For example, when a Gaelic Football player is running with the ball, the quadriceps muscles propel him forward with concentric actions whereas the hamstrings can reduce running by slow the running. In order to prevent injury and main top performance throughout the entire process, it is important to strengthen the two phases of muscular contraction.
Therefore, resistance exercise programs are highly recommended for strengthening of muscles. Eccentric muscle strengthening is particularly important to athletes involved in physically demanding sports like Gaelic Football and rugby. Some of the common resistance training programs range between two to six months are normally designed overload or overwork the muscle therefore increasing its strength, size and power (Schache et al., p12). Many of these programs concentrate on overloading the muscle during the concentric phase, like in biceps or leg extension. Recent development in training science has emphasized the eccentric phase of muscle action. Some common examples of eccentric exercises are Nordic hamstring curl, lowering a dumbbell or calf press off of a stair ledge.
Because an individual can lower more weight than can lift, modern workout programs and equipment are being developed to take advantage of this. It is normal for individuals to feel like they are exercising at a low level of muscle effort during eccentric workout compared to concentric workouts. Traditional eccentric hamstring exercises involved lifting a weight during the concentric stage and lowering a weight during the eccentric phase. These exercises were designed to maximize strength gain (Kyrolainen et al., p11).
However, in sport exercises like running or throwing, eccentric exercise is performed at a higher rate. Based on this, the eccentric exercises are designed to meet the goals and needs of every individual player. Based on the fact that the muscular forces that are generated during slow eccentric overloading are high compared to old concentric resistance workouts, three to five days of rest should be given during exercise days. This break is intended at giving the muscle time to recover, therefore allowing it time to repair, adapt and get ready for the next training session (Schache et al., p9). During muscle contraction, the ability to exert tension and the speed of contraction are inversely related. This means that the quicker a muscle contracts, the less tension it generates. The amount of tension generated by hamstring muscles when they are lengthening is relatively higher than when they are contacting. During eccentric exercises (negative workout), oxygen consumption barely rises to more than double the resting value. Past studies have revealed that when any muscle is eccentrically lengthened, the energy requirement reduces considerably compared to concentric contractions. This is based on the fact that heat production and ATP breakdown are both slowed down.
In conclusion, hamstring injuries are some of the most common and career threatening injuries among athletes and if the right measures are not taken, they can have serious effects on the career of an athlete. Hamstring injuries are common among athletes who take part in sports that involve jumping, running or kicking like Gaelic Football. They usually occur in the late swing phase when running. Hamstring injuries in Gaelic football can be prevented through eccentric and Isometric muscle strengthening. These two muscle training methods are designed to overload or overwork the muscle therefore increasing its strength, size and power. Some common examples of eccentric exercises are Nordic hamstring curl, lowering a dumbbell or calf press off of a stair ledge.
Devlin L. Recurrent posterior thigh symptoms detrimental to performance in rugby union: predisposing factors. Sports Med2000; 29:27387. Web.
Kyrolainen H, Komi PV, Belli A. Changes in muscle activity patterns and kinetics with increasing running speed. J Strength Cond Res. 1999; 13:400-6. Web.
Schache AG, Kim HJ, Morgan DL, et al. Hamstring muscle forces prior to and immediately following an acute sprinting-related muscle strain injury. Gait Posture 2010; 32:136-40. Web.
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