Older footballers and those with previous injuries are most likely to suffer hamstring injuries, a Monash University researcher has found.

Dr Belinda Gabbe from Monash's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, and Associate Professor Kim Bennell from the University of Melbourne, studied 222 senior players from six Melbourne-based AFL clubs during the 2002 preseason.

Hamstring injuries are the most common injury sustained by elite-level footballers, and are a risk in all sports involving sprinting. They make up about 13 per cent of all injuries sustained by AFL players.

Dr Gabbe's study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, looked at range of motion, lower limb flexibility and personal factors including age, preferred kicking leg and prior injuries and their relationships to hamstring injuries.

She said although flexibility was sometimes a factor in amateur level football, it had no impact on the risk of hamstring injuries in elite footballers.

"Injured hamstrings are really difficult to rehabilitate," Dr Gabbe said.

"So many sportsmen return to the game, but then the hamstring breaks down again. There is a 30 per cent recurrence level in AFL players and I know of one player in amateur football who has just sustained his third hamstring injury this year.

"It's very frustrating for the team, very frustrating for the player and of course very frustrating for the supporters. It results in substantial costs to the clubs because of missed training time and unavailability of players for matches."

Dr Gabbe is now working with amateur football leagues to determine whether exercise programs can help reduce the risk of hamstring injuries.

Diane Squires
Research Australia

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