Background: While hamstring strain injuries are common during sprinting, the mechanisms of injury are not well understood. In this study, we analyzed the running kinematics of an athlete obtained at the time of an acute hamstring strain injury. The purpose was to identify the period of the gait cycle during which the hamstring was likely injured, as well as to characterize the biomechanical conditions associated with the injury.
Methods: A male professional skier injured his right biceps femoris long head while running at 5.36 m/s on a treadmill with a 15% incline. Whole body kinematics were recorded at the time of injury. A linear periodic prediction model was used to determine when individual marker trajectories deviated from a cyclic periodic pattern, indicating the mechanical response to injury. A three-dimensional musculoskeletal model was used to compute joint angles and hamstring musculotendon lengths during the injurious running trial. These data were used with estimates of neuromuscular latencies and electromechanical delays to identify the most likely time period of injury.
Findings: Based upon the earliest indications in marker trajectories, a 130 ms period during the late swing phase of the gait cycle was identified as the period of injury. During this period, the biceps femoris reached a peak musculotendon length that was estimated to be 12% beyond the length seen in an upright posture and exceeded the normalized peak length of the medial hamstrings.
Interpretation: This case provides quantitative data suggesting that the biceps femoris muscle is susceptible to an lengthening contraction injury during the late swing phase of the running gait cycle.