Hamstrings May Be Helped By Unusual Exercises
According to a recently released study by Per Holmich out of the University of Copenhagen, soccer players who performed a certain strengthening exercise on a regular basis were at far less risk of being sidelined by an injured hamstring. The exercise in question doesn’t require any special equipment, and can be performed in no more than 10 minutes.
Strained hamstrings are one of the most common injuries to befall athletes who play soccer, and it can put them out of commission longer than most any other kind of injury. Hamstrings are the muscles stretching from the knee to the back of the thigh, and the injury usually occurs when the person is in mid-spring and the hamstring has to further extend in order to prevent overstretching of the knee. This extension of the muscle creates a tension which is referred to as “eccentric contraction,” and according to Holmich, it can result in overly high pressure placed on the muscles, often over a dangerously long time period.
Holmich and his University of Copenhagen colleagues reasoned that if a strengthening exercise were to replicate that sort of pressure, it could result in the hamstrings being better prepared for the high forces placed on them in games or practice sessions. The researchers chose to study fifty of Denmark’s all-male amateur and professional soccer teams (totaling 942 players) over the course of a year of both training and competition. Half of the coaches agreed to lead their teams on so-called “eccentric training” exercises over the mid-season break, as well as regularly throughout the season. The other half of the coaches had their teams go on about their usual training regimen without any special attention given to the hamstrings.
To perform the exercise, one player would pair up with another. Player A is on his knees while Player B holds Player B’s ankles and legs down. Player A then leans forward very slowly, and while doing so holds the weight of his body back using his hamstrings, until he finds himself in a push-up pose. When he reaches the ground, Player A then pushes himself back up.
At the end of the year-long study, the researchers found that fifty-two of the players in the teams which did not do the eccentric training exercises experienced injured hamstrings, while there were only fifteen injuries amongst teams which did perform the exercise. However, the recovery time for hamstring injuries in both groups -- whether they performed the exercises or not, remained the same as always -- roughly four weeks. There were also no reports of injuries caused by the performing the exercise itself, beyond the expected (and temporary) soreness in the muscles, especially in the first few sessions.