The Story of the Nordic Curl
Hamstring tears are one of the most common injuries in team sports and track & field events such as sprinting, hurdles and triple jump. Team sports that combine high speed running and kicking are at the greatest risk with gaelic football, soccer and rugby showing the greatest incidence in Ireland. Surprisingly in these sports the majority of the injuries actually occur during running or sprinting activities rather than the kicking activities. Hamstrings have a very high re-injury rate and causes significant loss of training and competition time.
Excessive strain while the hamstring is lengthening (eccentric contraction) is the primary cause of the tear. The time lost from sport will depend on the severity of the tear: classified into grade 1, 2 and 3 tears.
The Nordic curl has received a lot of great publicity recently for the prevention of hamstring injuries. Research has shown a significant reduction (greater than 60%) in the risk of acute injury or re-injury following a Nordic curl training programme. This is good news for those of you who suffer with repeated hamstring tears. There’s only one small problem….Nordic curls are a very hard exercise to do, especially if you are recovering from a recent tear. Very few top notch athletes or clients that come through the door can do them injury free.
The key benefit of Nordic Curls is that they eccentrically load the hamstring i.e. strengthen the hamstring through controlled lengthening. Loading the hamstring in this way improves its neuromuscular control and strength in the at risk ranges of motion. Alternative exercises can be used however that load the muscle in the same pattern and are a more realistic expectation for any athlete wanting to start this type of training. Once these exercises become easy at high load progression to the Nordic curl will be much more achievable.
Catherine Simpson, MISCP MSc. Sports Medicine