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Effects of prior hamstring strain injury on strength, flexibility, and running mechanics.

BACKGROUND: Previous studies have shown evidence of residual scar tissue at the musculotendon junction following a hamstring strain injury, which could influence re-injury risk. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether bilateral differences in strength, neuromuscular patterns, and musculotendon kinematics during sprinting are present in individuals with a history of unilateral hamstring injury, and whether such differences are linked to the presence of scar tissue.

METHODS: Eighteen subjects with a previous hamstring injury (>5 months prior) participated in a magnetic resonance (MR) imaging exam, isokinetic strength testing, and a biomechanical assessment of treadmill sprinting. Bilateral comparisons were made for peak knee flexion torque, angle of peak torque, and the hamstrings:quadriceps strength ratio, as well as muscle activations and peak hamstring stretch during sprinting. MR images were used to measure the volumes of the proximal tendon/aponeurosis of the biceps femoris, with asymmetries considered indicative of scar tissue.

FINDINGS: A significantly enlarged proximal biceps femoris tendon volume was measured on the side of prior injury. However, no significant differences between the previously injured and uninjured limbs were found in strength measures, peak hamstring stretch, or muscle activation patterns. Further, the degree of asymmetry in tendon volume was not correlated to any of the functional measures.

INTERPRETATION: Injury-induced changes in morphology do not seem discernable from strength measures, running kinematics, or muscle activation patterns. Further research is warranted to ascertain whether residual scarring alters localized musculotendon mechanics in a way that may contribute to the high rates of muscle re-injury that are observed clinically.

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