It’s painful, costly and, perhaps unsurprisingly, common in the final few minutes of a match.
Hamstring injuries can keep players out of action for months and for Premier League side Southampton, severely hampered their 2016 campaign with players such as left back Matt Targett making just eight appearances last season for the Saints.
Now the club has turned to University of Cumbria lecturer in sport rehabilitation Dr Katie Small for advice to try and reduce the number of incidents.
“Hamstrings are the number one cause of injury in football and can have a devastating impact on the player,” Dr Small said.
As author of a PhD ‘Effect of Fatigue on Hamstring Strain Injury Risk in Soccer’ Dr Small was the ideal choice for the club who are looking to learn how to reduce cases of injury. Next Monday she will be spending time at St Mary’s with medical and sports science staff.
“Not warming up properly can be just one reason but age as well as race and ethnicity can be a factor,” Dr Small says. “A lot of the factors go into two broad areas - either modifiable or non-modifiable risk factors. Where it's non-modifiable, we can’t do anything about them, it’s typically the older players who are more likely to sustain injuries. When they’ve had a previous injury they’re most likely to get one again.”
“Players of black origin or descent maybe have either different type of muscle fibres known as fast twitch muscle fibres. They become fatigued more quickly so they’re maybe more predisposed to injury or they could sometimes have altered movement mechanics relating to their pelvic structure.”
Other factors that are modifiable include changing training sessions to minimise the risks posed to players and altering regimes to suit the physique of the players and their previous health history.
“Fatigue plays a real central role in fitness – people suffer from reduced flexibility, reduced strength and their body mechanics change,” Dr Small said.
“Almost half of all hamstring injuries occur within the final fifteen minutes of each half so we know there is a really strong link between fatigue and risk of injury.”
The visit marks the latest association between the university and top flight sport.
"It's great for Katie to be asked to offer her advice and share her expertise at Southampton," Tim Barry, Head of Medical & Sport Sciences Department at the University of Cumbria, said. "We're proud to have alumni working at Burnley, Spurs, Newcastle and Manchester United and enjoy close ties to other football clubs. Our sports science expertise is in demand in motor sport and other areas where human performance can be measured and improved."