Purpose: To examine changes in hamstring muscle fatigue and central motor output during a 90-minute simulated soccer match, and the concomitant changes in hamstring maximal torque and rate of torque development. Method: Eight amateur male soccer players performed a 90-minute simulated soccer match, with measures performed at the start of and every 15-minutes during each half. Maximal torque (Nm) and rate of torque development (RTD; Nm.s-1) were calculated from maximal isometric knee flexor contractions performed at 10° of flexion. Hamstring peripheral fatigue was assessed from changes in the size and shape of the resting twitch (RT). Hamstring central motor output was quantified from voluntary activation (%) and normalized biceps femoris (BF) and medial hamstrings (MH) electromyographic amplitudes (EMG/M). Results: Maximal torque was reduced at 45-minutes by 7.6±9.4% (p<0.05). RTD in time intervals of 0-25, 0-50, and 0-75 ms post-contraction onset were reduced after 15-minutes in the first-half between 29.6 to 46.2% (p<0.05), and were further reduced at the end of the second-half (p<0.05). Maximal EMG/M was reduced for biceps femoris only concomitant to the time-course of reductions in maximal torque (p = 0.007). The rate of EMG rise for BF and MH was reduced in early time periods (0-75 ms) post-contraction onset (p<0.05). No changes were observed for the size and shape of the RT, indicating no hamstring peripheral fatigue. Conclusion: Centrally mediated reductions in maximal torque and rate of torque development provide insight into factors that may explain hamstring injury risk during soccer. Of particular interest were early reductions during the first-half of hamstring rate of torque development, and the decline in maximal EMG/M of biceps femoris in the latter stages of the half. These are important findings that may help explain why the hamstrings are particularly vulnerable to strain injury during soccer.
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