Background: Hamstring strain injuries (HSIs) are common within the Australian Football League (AFL) with most occurring during high-speed running (HSR). Therefore, this study investigated possible relationships between mean session running distances, session ratings of perceived exertion (s-RPE) and HSIs within AFL footballers.
Methods: Global positioning system (GPS)-derived running distances and s-RPE for all matches and training sessions over two AFL seasons were obtained from one AFL team. All HSIs were documented and each player's running distances and s-RPE were standardised to their 2-yearly session average, then compared between injured and uninjured players in the 4 weeks (weeks -1, -2, -3 and -4) preceding each injury.
Results: Higher than 'typical' (ie, z=0) HSR session means were associated with a greater likelihood of HSI (week -1: OR=6.44, 95% CI=2.99 to 14.41, p<0.001; summed weeks -1 and -2: OR=3.06, 95% CI=2.03 to 4.75, p<0.001; summed weeks -1, -2 and -3: OR=2.22, 95% CI=1.66 to 3.04, p<0.001; and summed weeks -1, -2, -3 and -4: OR=1.96, 95% CI=1.54 to 2.51, p<0.001). However, trivial differences were observed between injured and uninjured groups for standardised s-RPE, total distance travelled and distances covered whilst accelerating and decelerating. Increasing AFL experience was associated with a decreased HSI risk (OR=0.77, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.97, p=0.02). Furthermore, HSR data modelling indicated that reducing mean distances in week -1 may decrease the probability of HSI.
Conclusions: Exposing players to large and rapid increases in HSR distances above their 2-yearly session average increased the odds of HSI. However, reducing HSR in week -1 may offset HSI risk.
Keywords: Australian football; Global positioning system; Sprinting; Training.
Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://www.bmj.com/company/products-services/rights-and-licensing/.