Small-sided games vs. Hamstrings injuries

Hamstrings injuries are a plague in football (or soccer for our American friends). Science and technology continue to evolve, but surprisingly hamstrings injuries increased around 4% since 2001 (Ekstrand, 2016). So what’s happening?

Hamstrings injuries increased 4% since 2001. (Ekstrand, 2016)

It’s a fact that football matches’ demands have increased over the years (Barnes et al., 2014). It can be argued that more intensity leads to greater injury risk, and research supports that. However, are we meeting those greater demands during practices along the week?

Small-sided games are a very common approach during football practices. This approach promotes more intensity during playing actions, specific energy systems development and decision-making improvements. Due to the nature of the drills, mainly related with SSG’s dimensions and rules, the number of high-intensity accelerations and decelerations increases, which is crucial during a football match.

Although SSG’s are a great tool for football practices, it’s not enough to enhance performance neither to reduce the likelihood of injury. Despite the number of accelerations and decelerations, it does not allow a significant exposure to very-high speed efforts (>7 m/s). Since players can sprint (> 6,66 m/s) up to a total average of 237 meters during a football match (Andrzejewski, 2013), if they don’t accumulate high chronic sprinting loads (last 28 days rolling average), they are more prone to “peaks” in acute sprinting loads during matches, which will ultimately lead them to increased likelihood of injury, especially hamstrings injuries (Malone et al., 2016).

Players can sprint (> 6,66 m/s) up to a total average of 237 meters during a football match. (Andrzejewski, 2013)

Although hamstrings injuries are largely related with strength deficits and assimetries, poor lumbopelvic control and other modifiable and non-modifiable intrinsic and extrinsic factors, inadequate exposure to training loads will always lead to injury.

If your team is having a hamstrings injuries’ plague, check if they have high chronic sprinting loads and enough exposure to very-high intensity efforts (>7 m/s) during practices before you start judging your medical staff or your team’s bad luck!

Luís Mesquita

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