Introduction: Hamstring strain injuries are common in sports that involve high-speed running. It remains uncertain whether the hamstrings are susceptible to injury during late swing phase, when the hamstrings are active and lengthening, or during stance, when contact loads are present. In this study, we used forward dynamic simulations to compare hamstring musculotendon stretch, loading, and work done during stance and swing phases of high-speed running.
Methods: Whole-body kinematics, EMG activities, and ground reactions were collected as 12 subjects ran on an instrumented treadmill at speeds ranging from 80% to 100% of maximum (avg max speed = 7.8 m·s(-1)). Subject-specific simulations were then created using a whole-body musculoskeletal model that included 52 Hill-type musculotendon units acting about the hip and the knee. A computed muscle control algorithm was used to determine muscle excitation patterns that drove the limb to track measured hip and knee sagittal plane kinematics, with measured ground reactions applied to the limb.
Results: The hamstrings lengthened under load from 50% to 90% of the gait cycle (swing) and then shortened under load from late swing through stance. Although peak hamstring stretch was invariant with speed, lateral hamstring (biceps femoris) loading increased significantly with speed and was greater during swing than stance at the fastest speed. The biarticular hamstrings performed negative work on the system only during swing phase, with the amount of negative work increased significantly with speed.
Conclusion: We concluded that the large inertial loads during high-speed running appear to make the hamstrings most susceptible to injury during swing phase. This information is relevant for scientifically establishing muscle injury prevention and rehabilitation programs.