Lower hamstring extensibility in men compared to women is explained by differences in stretch tolerance

Paul Wm Marshall, Jason C. Siegler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: This study examined whether passive hamstring tissue stiffness and/or stretch tolerance explain the relationship between sex and hamstring extensibility. Methods. Ninety healthy participants, 45 men and 45 women (mean ± SD; age 24.6 ± 5.9 years, height 1.72 ± 0.09 m, weight 74.6 ± 14.1 kg) volunteered for this study. The instrumented straight leg raise was used to determine hamstring extensibility and allow measurement of stiffness and stretch tolerance (visual analog pain score, VAS). Results: Hamstring extensibility was 9.9° greater in women compared to men (p = 0.003). VAS scores were 16 mm lower in women (p = 0.001). Maximal stiffness (maximal applied torque) was not different between men and women (p = 0.42). Passive stiffness (slope from 20-50°hip flexion) was 0.09 Nm.°-1 lower in women (p = 0.025). For women, linear and stepwise regression showed that no predictor variables were associated with hamstring extensibility (adjusted r2 = -0.03, p = 0.61). For men, 44% of the variance in hamstring extensibility was explained by VAS and maximal applied torque (adjusted r2 = 0.44, p < 0.001), with 41% of the model accounted for by the relationship between higher VAS scores and lower extensibility (standardized β coefficient = -0.64, p < 0.001). Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that stretch tolerance and not passive stiffness explains hamstring extensibility, but this relationship is only manifest in men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number223
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 7 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Hamstring extensibility
  • Passive stiffness
  • Stretch tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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