The Punt Kick – More on the Hamstring
At the expense of sounding like the proverbial ‘broken record’
we note in this weeks press the same tired old stories dealing
with hamstring injuries. If ever there was an issue demanding
full attention from coaches it is the preparation of perhaps
the most vulnerable muscle group, the hamstrings.
at all levels fail to recognize and understand the synergy
between the two large muscle masses of the thigh, namely
the quadriceps which lie at the front and the hamstrings
that occupy the posterior compartment of the thigh. Both
groups are heavily involved in any propulsive movement
such as the drive from the right leg demonstrated by Sam
Day in the photograph at left as he drives forward to intercept
his opponent. The quadriceps, of course, are responsible
for the explosive right knee extension but it is the hamstring
group that the quadriceps rely on to produce the simultaneous
hip extension. One does not, indeed cannot, occur without
While the hamstrings must obviously shorten
to achieve this action at the hip, they are at the same time
being explosively lengthened at the knee as the more powerful
quadriceps exert their full power there. Four muscles (quadriceps)
at the knee versus only three (hamstrings) at the hip. David
versus Goliath you might say. But this mismatch gets worse. Three
of the four quadriceps are given the term ‘vastus’ meaning vast.
This massive knee extensor group is pitted against the hamstrings,
two of which are termed ‘semi’ semitendinosus and semimembranosus.
In other words they are only half muscles. Poor old ‘David’ really
cops a belting in this movement!
it gets worse! The poor old ‘hammies’ in our game are called
upon to perform a second and totally different action: that being
the arresting of the kicking leg at the end of its swing phase.
We refer to it in our book ‘The Science of Kicking’ as
approximating the stopping of a ‘runaway train’ (Ch 10, p 58).
It is precisely what we see in the photograph at right. Taken
an instant after impact we note the knee of the kicking leg has
been snapped into hyperextension, with the strain taken by the
cruciate ligaments. To ease this load we see, too, the hamstrings
‘switched on’ to bring the knee back into flexion. Note the extreme
tension in the lateral hamstring, biceps femoris, as it extends
from the pelvis above the hip joint, all the way to the top of
the fibula bone (arrow). This ‘elastic band’ needs not only to
be very strong, but also very resilient. In other words it must
have plenty of ‘give’ or as anatomists say, it must have a long
These two vital attributes, great strength and significant stretching
ability can only be achieved with long hours of preparation in
the gym beginning in the junior ranks, and under the watchful
eye of attentive and well prepared coaches. Neglect the ‘hammies’
at your peril!