Injury Prevention in Soccer:
The Hamstrings

An injury to the hamstrings is not only painful but can also keep the affected player away from the game for a long time. To make sure it doesn’t get that far, we show you 7 prevention measures for football players in the second part of our injury blog.

It pulls and tweaks. Soccer players with injured back thighs have many worries in one fell swoop. The injury makes it difficult for athletes to participate in practice or games. And even after the first few practice sessions, there is always the question in the back of the mind as to whether the muscle will last for the next sprint. The old saying "Prevention is better than cure" is especially true when it comes to hamstring muscles. But how do you reduce the risk of such an injury?

Well-trained endurance ability

One of the most important influencing factors is the endurance ability of your players. An improvement in aerobic endurance can in part significantly reduce the risk of injury to hamstrings in a football match. The reason is simple: An athlete with a well-trained basic stamina is longer able to complete explosive movements and sprints without getting tired [1]. The regeneration time between high-intensity runs and sprints is shortened, allowing the player to have more energy for the following move.

The training of high-intensity runs, and sprints also has a positive effect on injury prevention. By training in the so-called anaerobic zone, an improved functional and eccentric power development of the musculature sets in [2]. Important! The training of these skills should take place in both recovered and fatigued states. Studies have shown that sprint training in pre-fatigue conditions leads to improved repeated sprinting capacity and contributes to a sustained reduction in the risk of injury [3].

Coordination abilities

The improvement of soccer-specific coordination skills can also make an important contribution to the prevention of injuries. Good intermuscular coordination, which describes the interaction of all muscles involved in a movement, is a basic prerequisite for efficient muscle work. It prevents increased tension in the muscles, which could otherwise promote injury. On the one hand, an increased muscle tension leads to faster fatigue, on the other hand, it carries the risk of increased stiffness and thus a deteriorated elasticity of the muscles [2, 4].

Strengthening of the hamstrings

The same applies to the muscles directly affected by the injury of the back thigh. An efficient strength training, both concentric and eccentric, contributes to the improved protection of the muscles at high loads during football games. The importance of eccentric training before and during a season cannot be emphasized enough [5], since eccentric motion during a sprint is one of the possible main factors of hamstring injury. However, the load control and the timing of the application of this training method is particularly difficult. In order to influence the performance positively, the resilience of the players must be given, which has to be taken into account when planning the season.

Plyometric Training

During a football game, it is mainly one type of movements that brings an elevated risk of injury to the hamstring muscles. It is the so-called late swing phase during a sprint, in which the back thigh is exposed to enormous forces. At that moment there is a high-speed change from eccentric to concentric work done by the muscle. In order to reduce the risk of injury during this movement, players should be prepared accordingly for explosive football-specific moves.

"Plyometric training can be combined with coordination exercises and thus contribute significantly to injury prevention."

A plyometric training is the right approach here. The method, which among other things consists of quick series of jumps, is designed to shorten the time between positive and negative muscle activity and thus functionally strengthen ligaments, tendons and muscles. That way football-specific movements can be systematically trained and improved [7]. An additional agility training with coordination ladder and hurdles increases the coordinative part of the training session and thus contributes significantly to injury prevention [8, 9].

Sufficient mobility

Although this part of a training session is seldom given full attention, a regular stretching and agility program can work wonders. For one thing, effective stretching improves the range of motion of the joints. At the same time, the stiffness of the muscles is also reduced, which greatly reduces the likelihood of movement restrictions, which otherwise would result in a loss of coordination quality. For another thing, the possible strain load of the hamstrings during a game is minimized and thus reduces the risk of injury.

"Muscle-tendon units are exposed to high energy and therefore must be very flexible."

Sports scientists are stressing the importance of stretching programs, especially in sports with a variety of high-intensity sprints and eccentric movements. Especially muscle-tendon units are repeatedly exposed to high loads by storing and releasing the elastic energy during intensive movements. If the flexibility of this muscle-tendon unit is insufficient, the extension of the muscle fiber can go beyond the critical tolerance limit and subsequently lead to rupture.

Core stability

In addition to better movement control and stability in the trunk, a core training leads to improved activation patterns and muscle tension reductions. A well-trained core forms the basis for dynamic movements in soccer games and therefore should be strengthened through a stabilization training [6,12]

Warm-Ups before practice sessions and games

An effective warm-up routine has two advantages in terms of injury prevention. First, a good warm-up program increases the temperature and blood circulation of the muscles. This increases the elasticity of the muscle, which is now better prepared for high loads. In addition, the warm-up has a positive effect on the neuromuscular coordination. By warming up, the athlete’s movements are fine-tuned, so to speak, whereby the player is perfectly prepared for the specific requirements of a soccer game.

Another positive effect of a warm-up program before training sessions and games is the stimulation of the player’s oxidative metabolism, which provides for more effective recovery periods between sprints and high-intensity runs [6, 13]. Increased oxygen uptake at the onset of sprints and reduced accumulation of lactate add additional physical performance during high-intensity activities [6, 14].

Conclusion

It becomes clear that the multitude of injury mechanisms also entail a large amount of preventive measures. The complexity of the influencing factors therefore requires an approach that combines the different measures. The studies also prove that particularly combined training methods are successful in injury prevention. In these so-called multimodal training interventions, however, coaches have to make sure that the player’s physical limits are not exceeded. The planning of preventive measures should therefore be dosed and already taken into account during the first seasonal planning.

In the third part of our injury blog, we'll give you an example of what a warm-up program before practice sessions and soccer games for injury prevention of the hamstrings could look like.

Your planet.training team

Sources:

[1] Glaister, M. (2005). Multiple Sprint Work. Physiological Responses, Mechanisms of Fatigue and the Influence of Aerobic Fitness
[2] Schlumberger, A. (2014). Präventive Maßnahmen. In H.-W. Müller-Wohlfahrt, P. Ueblacker & L. Hänsel (Hrsg.), Muskelverletzungen im Sport
[3] Hrysomallis, C. (2013). Injury Incidence, Risk Factors and Prevention in Australian Rules Football. Sports Medicine
[4] Devlin, L. (2000). Recurrent Posterior Thigh Symptoms Detrimental to Performance in Rugby Union. Sports Medicine
[5] Thelen, D. G., Chumanov, E. S., Best, T. M., Swanson, S. C. & Heiderscheit, B. C. (2005). Simulation of Biceps Femoris Musculotendon Mechanics during the Swing Phase of Sprinting. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
[6] Niedermeyer, D. (2017). Verletzungsmechanismen der ischiocruralen Muskulatur beim Fußballspiel und die Möglichkeiten der Prävention. Bachelors-Thesis, Technische Universität München.
[7] Bizzini, M., Junge, A. & Dvorak, J. (n.d.). 11+ Manual. Ein komplettes Aufwärmprogramm zur Verletzungsprävention. In FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre.
[8] Sugiura, Y., Sakuma, K., Sakuraba, K. & Sato, Y. (2017). Prevention of Hamstring Injuries in Collegiate Sprinters. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
[9] Agre, J. C. (1985). Hamstring Injuries. Proposed Aetiological Factors, Prevention, and Treatment.
[10] McHugh, M. P. & Cosgrave, C. H. (2010). To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance.
[11] Witvrouw, E., Mahieu, N., Danneels, L. & McNair, P. (2004). Stretching and Injury Prevention. An Obscure Relationship.
[12] Schlumberger, A. (2014). Präventive Maßnahmen. In H.-W. Müller-Wohlfahrt, P. Ueblacker & L. Hänsel (Hrsg.), Muskelverletzungen im Sport
[13] Gamble, P. (2012). Training for Sports Speed and Agility. An evidence-based approach. New York: Routledge.
[14] Gray, S. & Nimmo, M. (2001). Effects of active, passive or no warm-up on metabolism and performance during high-intensity exercise.

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