Brilliant Hamstring Injury Observations from Dave Joyce

One of the luxuries of my job is I regularly have the chance to meet, interact and learn from some of the most brilliant minds in the field of sports performance. The following post is from an email exchange I recently had with David Joyce about hamstring injuries that he granted me permission to share. David is the Head of Athletic Performance for the GWS Giants, and the editor of one of my most recommended books (High Performance Training for Sport). Enjoy David’s insights (copy and pasted from the email) on hamstring injuries….

Main learnings for me over the past 10 years or so looking into hamstring injuries (still the most common injury in AFL):

  • Differences in muscle architecture between proximal and distal components.  Most likely due to the fact that they have slightly differing roles.
  • Most likely wide inter-individual differences in architecture, leading to the conclusion that what’s good for one person may not be good for another
  • Need to have hamstring work that addresses both proximal and distal components (using both knee and hip dominant drills)
  • Lumbo-pelvic stability critical in order for the hamstrings to be able to function as prime movers
  • Most likely that the aim for the hamstrings is to remain working in isometry, especially the proximal components.  This is similar to the calf.  Eccentric actions are simply too metabolic and time costly.  This does not mean, however, that eccentric training is wrong.  On the contrary, eccentric training forms a large component of our programme.  It’s aim is to capacity-build.  In this way, it’s sports relevant, not necessarily sports-specific.
  • Running mechanics are critical to assess, with overstriding implicated in many of the cases I see.
  • Musculotendinous failure is often the final straw, with antecedent back-related issues often at play
  • BF is like the quarterback, but the ST is like the left tackle.  If it is fatigued, weak or injured (remember, it is often used in ACL grafts), it transfers force to the BF.
  • Ultrasound helpful in assessing size (atrophy) of individual muscles
  • Tools like the nordboard are very helpful in assessing progress over time and symmetry, but it is too blunt when it comes to examining where the deficiency lies.  Hence the need to have a multimodal assessment tool.
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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.