Effect of high-speed running on hamstring strain injury risk

Br J Sports Med. 2016 Dec;50(24):1536-1540. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095679. Epub 2016 Jun 10.


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.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Australia
  • Hamstring Muscles / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Running*
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult