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One of the most dramatic injuries to observe is an athlete sprinting, tearing a hamstring, and pulling up wounded. This is unfortunately an all too common sight in shorter distance track races (100m, 200m, 400m), but can also happen in team sports such as hockey and football where sprinting is involved. When sprinting, the hamstrings work incredibly hard. When taking a stride, the hamstrings work eccentrically i.e. they lengthen while still under tension. This greatly increases the risk of damage especially with changes of direction and speed. Other factors causing hamstring tears are those requiring athletes to bend forward (such as hockey) which place more tension on the hamstrings. With the adrenaline and hype of the Olympics, and with the strength of competition, athletes are bound to push themselves a little harder than usual. This may cause greater than usual stress on the hamstring tissue, hence leading to a tear. The Olympic environment could also be a contributor to the injury in that the athletes have spent potentially large amounts of time travelling and hence sitting, which could cause lower back spinal disc and subsequently nerve irritation leading to increased tone (tightness) in the hamstring, hence making it more susceptible to a tear. This may be particularly relevant to hockey players due to the prolonged bending involved in their sport, and footballers, when they kicking. These examples are comparable to weekend athletes working in offices by day. So while your competition might not be decided by millimetres and one hundredths of a second count may not count, optimal technique is critical for an athlete of any level for both performance and injury prevention. All the best! The HFS Team  

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