Doing a hammy could become a thing of the past with QUT researchers claiming they’ve invented a device which can predict and prevent hamstring strains.
It’s the one thing guaranteed to spoil your grand final party quicker than warm beer or a misfiring barbecue – the sight of your team’s star player sustaining a sudden hamstring injury.
Colloquially known as “doing a hammy”, the visual of an elite athlete clutching the back of their thigh and going from full flight to a dead stop is one of the most painfully obvious injuries in the sporting world.
Thankfully, researchers from Queensland University of Technology’s school of exercise and nutrition sciences are doing their best to make the hamstring strain not only predictable but avoidable.
They’ve created a portable device which not only tests the strength of an individual’s hamstring but can make it more resistant to injury.
After measuring the hamstring strength of 200 AFL players from five clubs with an exercise known as the Nordic curl, researchers determined building `eccentric’ strength in the muscle during pre-season dramatically reduced the player’s chances of suffering an injury later in the year.
Eccentric muscle exercises are those in which the muscle contracts while lengthening.
Dr Anthony Shield led the research team and says it has given them a quantifiable measure of an athlete’s hamstring strength, thereby allowing them to determine the person’s risk of injury.
“The greater the athlete’s hamstring strength, the less likely they were to injure their hamstring, with the probability of a hamstring strain injury dropping to less than 10 per cent in the strongest athletes,” Dr Shield said.
He also believes a newcomer to the exercise could see dramatic results, possibly decreasing their risk of re-injuring a hamstring which has been weakened by prior injuries – a particular problem with soft tissue muscle strains.
“It’s possible to effectively counter the additional risk conferred by having a prior hamstring injury by improving the eccentric hamstring strength through exercises such as the Nordic curl,” Dr Shield said.
“This is particularly important for athletes who are already at an increased risk of injury due to their age or because they have sustained a hamstring injury in the previous season.”
Already several sporting clubs in Australia are using prototypes of the device and the research team is also starting trials with rugby union, NRL, cricket and A-League clubs.
Several overseas sporting institutions including elite European soccer clubs and NFL teams in the United States have also taken a keen interest in the research.