A team of researchers led by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health was awarded a four-year, $4 million grant by the National Football League to study the prevention and treatment of hamstring injuries for elite football players. Hamstring injuries are the most common injuries suffered by NFL players, but are also common among recreational, collegiate and high school players.
This award is part of the league’s multi-year effort to better understand and prevent lower extremity injuries, including strains to soft tissue such as hamstrings. The findings from this project aim to determine an athlete’s propensity for hamstring strain injury and identify targets for injury mitigation, potentially reducing the injury burden on the player.
“The persistent symptoms, slow healing, and high rate of re-injury make hamstring strains a frustrating and disabling injury for athletes and a challenge for sports medicine clinicians to treat,” said Bryan Heiderscheit, PhD, professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “To truly understand and reduce hamstring injury risk requires a study of an unprecedented size and scope, and we’re able to do that now thanks to support from the NFL.”
A team of multi-disciplinary researchers will combine state-of-the-art quantitative imaging, on-field biomechanics, and computational analytics to determine risk factors associated with initial and recurrent hamstring injuries and develop data-driven approaches to help individualize risk assessment. This innovative work will assist sports medicine clinicians to advance strategies for injury prevention and return athletes to sports quickly with reduced risk for re-injury, according to Heiderscheit. In addition, the study will aim to provide a roadmap for future research involving orthobiologics as a treatment for muscle strain injuries.
“At the league, we recognize the significant burden hamstring injuries have on our elite athletes year after year, and have dedicated resources to analyzing the occurrence and type of lower extremity injuries to better identify ways we can further reduce them,” said Dr. Allen Sills, chief medical officer, NFL. “We’re hopeful that through the data-based approach outlined by Dr. Heiderscheit and his team, this funding will enable them to develop scientifically-based strategies that will advance the health and safety of our players in the years to come.”
Other researchers on the study include David Opar, PhD, Australian Catholic University SPRINT Centre; and Silvia Blemker, PhD, co-founder of Springbok Analytics.