Research on the Washington Redskins Professional Cheerleading team found that one-third suffered from lower back and hamstring pain (Greenstein & Bishop 2006). The ballistic chorus line-like kicks and drop splits are thought to be the reason for this high injury rate. A team of researchers from the Thera-Band Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) wanted to determine if an exercise intervention targeting the hamstrings could reduce the incidence of hamstring pain. Dr. Jay Greenstein, the chiropractor for the team, developed an eccentric hamstring training program with Thera-Band band loops. Injury data was collected at 3 points in the year: team selection in June, before pre-season in June, and after the season in December.
During the season, the cheerleaders performed the exercises 2 times per week at practice, as well as at home 3 times a week. Those with hamstring pain were assigned a Red Thera-Band band loop to perform the ‘split-stance’ eccentric hamstring exercise
Cheerleaders without hamstring pain used a Green Thera-Band loop and performed the ‘split-stance’ exercise, as well as a single-leg stance exercise.
Each exercise was performed a prescribed number of times based on the chart below. The eccentric lowering phase was performed over 5 seconds, while the concentric phase was performed over 2 seconds.
At the end of the season, the cheerleaders with hamstring pain experienced significantly less pain after performing the Thera-Band loop exercises.
It is important to note that in addition to the lack of a control group, this study was limited by a small sample size and relatively short length of intervention. Further research is needed to determine if this eccentric hamstring exercise can not only reduce pain, but can prevent injury as well.
REFERENCE: Greenstein JS et al. 2011 . The effects of a closed-chain, eccentric training program on hamstring injuries of a professional football cheerleading team.. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 34(3):195-200.
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Disclosure: This study was partially funded by The Hygenic Corporation, which manufactures Thera-Band.