Bulletin 8
The Punt Kick – Keep your Hamstrings Injury•Free 

Hamstring stretching undertaken by the majority of players would seem to indicate a basic misunderstanding of what the hamstrings are and how they f unction. The term ‘hamstrings’ refers to three muscles that occupy the region at the back of the thigh.

The reader will note that they all originate from the very lowest aspect of the pelvic bone, and shave a single shared tendon attaching them to the bone. If you are seated as you read this, you are in fact, sitting on this boney origin. Their lower end extends to an attachment below the knee joint, and hence these three muscles cross both of these joints. Their job is to draw the thigh backwards and at the same time bend the knee.

Unfortunately, in football exactly the opposite movements occur when the ball is kicked. That is to say the thigh is moved explosively forward and the knee straightened as in kicking. Such is the explosive nature of this action, that the hamstrings can be caught by surprise and stretched beyond their comfort zone. In order to stretch these muscles, it is necessary to have the greatest distance possible between the origin and the insertion of these three muscles. Unfortunately, this position puts us as individuals outside our own comfort zone. Stretching them is uncomfortable and it hurts. If you are not prepared to put up with some discomfort, stop reading here and go and take up knitting!

For those of you who are still with us, look at the position demonstrated in the photograph below.

You will note here that the hip joint is being flexed significantly and the hamstrings are being placed onstretch at this joint. However, the knee joint is also flexed and the hamstrings have been taken off-stretch at this lower joint. The effect of this exercise has been lost – no gain, no benefit. Kaput! Compare it to the photograph of Chris Judd in out last bulletin, and you will understand why we have used the term ‘frivolous’ in our description of this stretching method. If players are serious about achieving an increase in hamstring resting length, unfortunately they must be prepared to tolerate at least mild discomfort – it is an occupational hazard, one might say, but certainly no worse than the agony of a gutbusting 120 minutes of play. So guys, get busy, get rid of the towel and do the job properly.

First, in addition to your pre-training stretching regime you must be prepared to be engaged in at least a30 minute post-training stretching program. Stretching is always more effective when the body is thoroughly warm and this, of course, is the case after several hours of drills and skills. There are many stretching exercises one can perform to lengthen these muscles, but there are three essentials:

1. Maintain maximum distance between the origin of the muscle and its insertion
2. Maintain the position for, say, 10 seconds and even up to 20 seconds

Note the positions in the photographs below. Here our subject demonstrates the stretching of his hamstrings on alternate sides. This athlete has his left hip fully flexed, left knee fully extended and hence has maximum distance between the origin and insertion of his hamstrings. His opposite foot is turned inwards and so avoids strain being placed on the medial collateral ligament of his left knee that would occur if this left foot were to be turned out as in a hurdling position. The exercise can also be performed to stretch both sides simultaneously.

Note that in both, the athlete is maintaining the tension himself by grasping his ankles and pulling his trunk forward. We strongly recommend performing this exercise without assistance. Never have a teammate force you into an excessive forward position by pressing downward in the middle of your back. Only you can feel the degree of tension – he cannot! Errors can be made and muscle strain/tears can occur. Perform this stretch solo and take your time. We say again, this stretching is best undertaken following a vigorous drills/skills session on the track. It can also be performed after a hot shower at home but remember, hold the position and DO NOT BOUNCE!

Early days will be uncomfortable, but persist and you will be rewarded with injury-free performance. The cry of ‘…I’ve done a hammy…’ will be heard far less frequently. Good Luck!





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