The 2018 AFL season is the year of the hamstring. The torn hamstring, the strain, the slight niggle or the complete rupture.
Heading into round 9, 29 players sat on official injury lists with the dreaded hamstring problem, with many more – including stars like Gary Ablett, Shaun Burgoyne, Matt Crouch, Eddie Betts and Patrick Dangerfield – having missed matches earlier this year.
And while fans are being robbed of the chance to see some of the game’s best players, those inside clubs are scratching heads, with Collingwood and Adelaide reviewing internal processes after a spate of injuries.
The Crows have been hit hardest, with an incredible nine players already sidelined with hamstring injuries in 2018, something coach Don Pyke acknowledged last week was “an issue”.
“We need to address it. So that’s what we’re doing,” a perplexed Pyke said.
Phil Newman, an expert in sports injuries and injury prevention from the University of Canberra, said football clubs should not be surprised by hamstring issues.
“AFL is well known for its hamstring injuries,” he told The New Daily.
“With running and kicking, hamstrings are used a lot. There’s more running and more fatigued involved than in the NRL.
“A hamstring injury is technically an acceleration or a deceleration injury, normally sustained taking off for a sprint or finishing one.
“The muscles that form the hamstring group actually tear. Sometimes tendon can come away from tissue and there can also be internal tears of muscle.”
Many players who suffer a hamstring injury do so again in their career.
This was highlighted by Collingwood pair Darcy Moore and Jamie Elliott, who both suffered hamstring injuries on the weekend.
For Moore in particular the issue is becoming a regular one, while Elliott, sidelined by all sorts of injuries over the past couple of years, has also had his share of hamstring issues.
And there is a reason for that, according to Newman.
“One thing we know very well is that once you have done a hamstring, you are seven times more likely to do another one in your life,” he said.
“Muscles are normally good healers but with hamstrings, you can feel a lot better when it’s not strong enough yet.
“The focus needs to be more on prevention. It seems that prevention is a better cure … that’s about adequate strengthening and the right kind of strengthening.”
Speaking to the Seven Network, Dr Rohan White, formerly St Kilda’s doctor, said “recurrent hamstring injuries still remain relatively high”.
He wondered if the AFL’s reduction in interchanges – from unlimited to 120 and then down to 90 – had contributed.
“With the reduction in interchange episodes down to 90, [I wonder] whether this could be a factor,” he said.
“Of course, the club doctors are assessing these statistics … Could this be contributing to the hamstring injuries and the recurring strains?
“There’s no fewer than 30 players out across AFL clubs who are out with hamstring injuries at the moment.”
Interestingly, just two NRL players (Cronulla’s Wade Graham and Melbourne’s Young Tonumaipea) sit on injury lists with hamstring problems.