PURPOSE: Neuromuscular fatigue is considered to be important in the etiology of hamstring strain injuries in football. Fatigue is assumed to lead to decreases in hamstring contractile strength and changes in sprinting kinematics, which would increase hamstring strain injury risk. Therefore, the aim was to examine the effects of football-specific fatigue on hamstring maximal voluntary torque (MVT) and rate of torque development (RTD), in relation to alterations in sprinting kinematics.
METHODS: Ten amateur football players executed a 90-min running-based football match simulation. Before and after every 15 min of simulated play, MVT and RTD of the hamstrings were obtained in addition to the performance and lower body kinematics during a 20-m maximal sprint. Linear mixed models and repeated measurement correlations were used to assess changes over time and common within participant associations between hamstring contractile properties and peak knee extension during the final part of the swing phase, peak hip flexion, peak combined knee extension and hip flexion, and peak joint angular velocities, respectively.
RESULTS: Hamstring MVT and sprint performance were significantly reduced by 7.5% and 14.3% at the end of the football match simulation. Unexpectedly, there were no indications for reductions in RTD when MVT decrease was considered. Decreases in hamstring MVT were significantly correlated to decreases in peak knee angle (R = 0.342) and to increases in the peak combined angle (R = -0.251).
CONCLUSIONS: During a football match simulation, maximal voluntary isometric hamstring torque declines. This decline is related to greater peak knee extension and peak combined angle during sprint running, which indicates a reduced capacity of the hamstrings to decelerate the lower leg during sprint running with fatigue.