Hamstring Injuries in the AFL. Perception becomes Reality.

If you want to learn more about Hamstring Rehabilitation check out the 120 page comprehensive Hamstring Injury Treatment Manual.

Hamstrings are the biggest cause of injury in the AFL. The game goes for 120 minutes and has 4 breaks. They will start warming up at 1.20 for a 2.10 game and then rest before running out. Then 1/4 time/1/2 time and 3/4 time. Game finishes at almost 5pm! They kick on the run and also bend over at speed. Just a recipe for injury. Also they have to carry some bulk for contact needs, but still run and run. Thus more hamstrings than soccer and rugby for instance.

In 1997 a group of Essendon coaches, fitness, medical and management people went to the AIS to examine training methods. With respect to injury management it was an important trip for me. I changed my training methods a lot then.

Proprioception circuit before weights. Screening of biomechanics of players. Core stability screening. Core stability and core strength circuits. Specific unilateral training for the lower extremity. Specific attention to gluteal and hamstring strength work. Lots of running drills and faster running. More individualized training. Full time massage therapists. Full time physiotherapists, Full time training. Databases of loads and education of coaches to manage training loads and kicking loads in season a bit better. Pre- training meetings to plan training with medical staff.

What I saw in the 1998 was a big drop in soft tissue injury after those initiatives, especially hamstrings.

I had done comprehensive isokinetic testing a few times in the 90’s but this multifactorial approach seemed to work better.

I went to Geelong in 1998 with a brief to reduce injury. I implemented the same initiatives. I used Mark Sayers the biomechanist to screen every player. Employed more masseurs. They did lots of core stability and core strength work and they trained faster. It really seemed to work. We had a huge drop in soft tissue and hamstring injury rates. There seemed to be some consistent line to all this.

One year we got to round 18 and not having lost a player to hamstring injury, Then fatigue hit with a player and we lost a few games to hamstrings. So, these initiatives as a whole seemed to work. Which one helped most? Now that is a tough question. Massage or core stability or running faster? Difficult! I always lean to fast running in the preparation block as a key.

But perceptions can become reality in elite sport.

Now every club gets hamstrings. One must look at trends and overall rates over years with the same staff in a club.

More importantly the take home message is to use a multifactorial approach to hamstring injury prevention and rehabilitation. Make sure you have ticked most boxes. I will soon be putting some information out on a strength and conditioning program for hamstring injury.


1. Core Stability. Is the inner core functioning properly?

2. Core Strength: Has the athlete got sufficient strength to cope with the forces required in fast sports.

4. Pelvic Stability: Is the athlete unbalanced or does the athlete have a weakness in gluteus medius for example.

5. Overstriding: Is the athletes running technique a disaster? Combined with lack of pelvic stability do they over-stride and tire the hammies out.

6. Hamstring and Gluteal Strength: Does the athlete lack the ability to switch the glutes on or have little strength both concentrically or eccentrically or the whole lot?

7. Lower back problems; Do they exist? Gluteal referred problems?

8. Previous history of injury.

9. Has the athlete prepared themselves for fast running and adapted to high eccentric loads in pre-season.

10. Is the athlete fit enough? Can they last?

11. Is the athlete too tired from training?

12. Has the athlete trained hard the day before and is doing fast running today and thus will be more prone to injury?

13. Are you too old?


That is why there is no cookbook recipe to preventing hamstrings.

Just need to keep ticking those boxes

Hamstring Rehabilitation and Running Programs

Hamstring Rehabilitation and Healing