The incidence of hamstring injuries may be sharply reduced if footballers adopt a new exercise regime worked out by a young Melbourne physiologist.
Camilla Brockett, a graduate student from the Department of Physiology at Monash University, said her breakthrough is based on a new understanding of “eccentric” exercise, that is, exercises where the contracting muscle is stretched.
“Normally footballers and other athletes concentrate on muscle shortening exercises. They attach weights to their ankles and lift their feet up,” Ms Brockett said.
“But I’m suggesting they should exercise their hamstrings by actively stretching them.”
She was giving a Fresh Science seminar at Science NOW! in Melbourne today (Saturday).
Injuries occur when footballers kick the ball. The power of the kick is delivered by the quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thigh. The hamstrings come into play after the kick has been delivered to put a brake on the kicking action.
“But it’s not an action footballers train for, and it places a strain on the hamstring. That’s how injuries are likely to happen.”
The Brockett exercise involves the players kneeling on the ground with their bodies upright, like a bridegroom at the alter. Then, with their feet anchored, they lean forward, slowly lowering their body to the ground.
These eccentric exercises are designed to protect them from new and recurrent hamstring injuries. Other sports with a high number of hamstring injuries include gridiron, soccer and athletic events with a high leg lift, such as hurdling and sprinting.