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UW Gets $4M NFL Grant to Study Hamstring Injuries

Tabatha Wethal

Hamstring injuries are the most common injuries to players in the National Football League. To better understand and prevent lower-extremity injuries, researchers led by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health were awarded a $4 million NFL grant to study hamstring injuries, the university said in a news release Thursday.

Hamstring injuries are also common injuries among recreational, collegiate and high school players.

The four-year grant 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 the UW grant 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, 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 multidisciplinary researchers will combine 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.

The research will assist sports medicine clinicians in advancing strategies for injury prevention and return athletes to sports quickly with reduced risk for re-injury, Heiderscheit said.

In addition, the study looks 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 for the 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, Australian Catholic University SPRINT Centre; and Silvia Blemker, co-founder of Springbok Analytics.

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