Determinants of hamstring fascicle length in professional rugby league athletes
Objectives: Investigate the determinants of hamstring fascicle length in professional rugby league players. Design: Retrospective cohort study Methods: Thirty-three elite male athletes underwent testing in the pre-season and in-season periods. Fascicle length measurements of the biceps femoris long head, 3D kinematics and elapsed time-periods at thigh angular velocities between 20 °/s to peak velocity during a single-leg Nordic hamstring strength test, GPS-derived running loads, age and previous injury history were all recorded. Fixed effect determinants for fascicle length were analyzed using multiple linear regression. Results: Significant determinants of hamstring fascicle length were observed. Multivariate regression analysis showed modifiable factors including chronic (56 days) running volumes >80% of measured peak velocity and maximum velocity itself collectively explained 43% of the variability in the fascicle length data, whilst peak eccentric strength and elapsed time under load from 20 °/s to peak thigh angular velocity collectively contributed an additional 44%. Chronic running volumes >90% of individually measured peak velocity and the 'break angle' during a Nordic eccentric contraction were not significant contributors to the final model. Non-modifiable risk factors (age and previous injury) contributed the remaining 13%. Conclusions: Managing high velocity running exposure as well as eccentric strength allows for ˜90% of the controllable determinants in fascicle length within elite athlete populations. An important contributor to the explained variability within fascicle length (superseded only by chronic velocity exposure and peak eccentric strength) was an athletes ability to achieve a prolonged contraction at long lengths during eccentric strength training rather than the angle of failure during the contraction in itself.