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Running related knee pain? It could be down to your hamstrings …… Here’s why.

Blog produced by Jason Dodd Clinic Manager, Sports Therapist and member of the Physiotherapy and Musculo-Skeletal Team at Bodylogics The Sports Therapy Clinic.

Muscle fatigue has long been seen as the main cause of athletic injury.  Studies from Scandinavia show that sports injuries constitute 10–19% of all acute injuries seen in emergency departments, and the most common types are knee and ankle injuries. Running is one of the leading injury related activities for women and men aged 20 years and above.  The injury rate for runners is 46%, and the knee and foot are the most common locations of injury.5

Many recent epidemiological studies have suggested fatigue as a potential risk factor for athletic injuries.  Muscle fatigue impairs not only performance, but also proprioceptive acuity and pre-activation of stabilising muscles

When we look at the bio-mechanics of running, one of the things that is spoken of is joint stability.  Joint stability is determined by an interaction of passive restraints produced by the ligaments and other joint structures, joint geometry, friction between cartilage surfaces, and stability provided by muscles acting on the joint. Of all these factors, the stability provided by the contracting muscles appears to be the most important for knee stability. 

Eccentric muscle action stabilises the knee joint dynamically as eccentric muscle contraction acts to control deceleration of body segments during dynamic tasks.

What is eccentric muscle action?  Eccentric exercise put simply is when the muscle is working whilst in a lengthening state.  Take a bicep curl, to get the arm up would be a ‘concentric’ muscle action but when you lower the weight your bicep will still be working but in an eccentric muscle action as it will be working to prevent the movement going down to fast but at the same time the bicep is getting longer.  In terms of the hamstring, the eccentric action is the moment the leg goes from under your buttock muscle (gluteus maximus) and comes underneath you to be outstretched in front of you.  The reason for the highest force coming through here is because this movement almost acts as your brake mechanism and when the foot strikes the floor your body weight is being forced through this leg.

As a result of this, lower extremity muscle fatigue may increase the risk of knee and soft tissue injuries. The data from this study suggest that eccentric hamstring fatigue occurs in non-elite marathon runners which may put them at undue risk of knee injury, and soft tissue injuries—for example, to the hamstrings

A recent study suggests that the local muscular endurance of knee flexors, during eccentric work in particular, is important in preventing or delaying kinematic changes associated with fatigue during endurance running. Moreover, it was found that the eccentric local muscular endurance of the knee flexors in elite middle distance runners correlated with running economy.  This study is highlighting the fact that the stronger your knee flexor muscles are (your hamstring) the better your running economy becomes.

To conclude, the strength of our hamstrings are vital in the prevention of injury.  Although this blog talks about the role of hamstrings in runners, there is plenty of argument to suggest that strong hamstrings are vital in the prevention of most sporting events as most of these involve the concept of running. We also suggest that strong gluteal muscles are essential in the prevention of running related injuries and knee pain, as supported by our blog here.

How can Bodylogics help?

We are the leading Sports Therapy Clinic in North London, offering Sports MassagePhysiotherapyOsteopathySports Rehabilitation and many more services, all of which are designed to get you back to being pain free and to enable you to get the best from your body.  Our Team are made up of specialists in different areas and we are confident we have a Team member who will be able to offer you the correct maintenance programme to keep you injury free or offer you the advice and treatment plan that will have you back to full fitness in the shortest time possible.  We do not cut corners, we offer genuine, true advice in order to give you the best chance of success.  We are proud of our reputation we have built and we are confident that you will share the thoughts of many others after visiting us.

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