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Comparative Study
, 15, 223

Lower Hamstring Extensibility in Men Compared to Women Is Explained by Differences in Stretch Tolerance

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Comparative Study

Lower Hamstring Extensibility in Men Compared to Women Is Explained by Differences in Stretch Tolerance

Paul W M Marshall et al. BMC Musculoskelet Disord.

Abstract

Background: This study examined whether passive hamstring tissue stiffness and/or stretch tolerance explain the relationship between sex and hamstring extensibility.

Methods: Ninety healthy participants, 45 men and 45 women (mean ± SD; age 24.6 ± 5.9 years, height 1.72 ± 0.09 m, weight 74.6 ± 14.1 kg) volunteered for this study. The instrumented straight leg raise was used to determine hamstring extensibility and allow measurement of stiffness and stretch tolerance (visual analog pain score, VAS).

Results: Hamstring extensibility was 9.9° greater in women compared to men (p = 0.003). VAS scores were 16 mm lower in women (p = 0.001). Maximal stiffness (maximal applied torque) was not different between men and women (p = 0.42). Passive stiffness (slope from 20-50° hip flexion) was 0.09 Nm.°(-1) lower in women (p = 0.025). For women, linear and stepwise regression showed that no predictor variables were associated with hamstring extensibility (adjusted r(2) = -0.03, p = 0.61). For men, 44% of the variance in hamstring extensibility was explained by VAS and maximal applied torque (adjusted r(2) = 0.44, p < 0.001), with 41% of the model accounted for by the relationship between higher VAS scores and lower extensibility (standardized β coefficient = -0.64, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that stretch tolerance and not passive stiffness explains hamstring extensibility, but this relationship is only manifest in men.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Representative results from a man and woman tested in this study for the torque measured during the instrumented straight leg raise test (iSLR). Passive tissue stiffness was measured as the slope (∆y/∆x) through the common range of motion (Megrad, 20-50°), and peak torque applied during the iSLR (Memax). Maximum leg excursion angle (leg°max) was used to represent hamstring extensibility in this study (male, 67°; female, 87°). Observe the lower Megrad, and greater leg°max for the female participant, but similar Memax. Note that VAS pain scores were 66 and 4 mm respectively for the male and female participant results presented here.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Relationship between hamstring extensibility (degrees; °) and visual analog pain scores (VAS; mm) for men (n = 45) and women (45) in this study. Trend lines are displayed for men and women, with a significant association between VAS and hamstring extensibility for men only (adjusted r2 = 0.41, standardized β coefficient = -0.64, p < 0.001).

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