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Eccentric muscle rehabilitation for athletes

Eccentric muscle rehabilitation for athletes

Written by:  Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, CKTP, CGFI


Stability and mobility are key components to athletic movement.  Joints need to move through the proper range of motion, but still be able to accept and control the amount of force that is placed on them.  Look at a football running back trying to run through an opposing team’s defensive line.  Look at a pitcher’s arm as he throws a fastball pitch.  You can understand the immense forces placed on the athletes’ knees and shoulders in these examples.

Limb strength and control is an important part of sports.  The correct exercises are important to develop the skills needed to move efficiently and safely.  One important component is muscular eccentric training.

There are three major types of muscular contraction associated with sports and movement without the use of expensive equipment: concentric, eccentric, and isometric.  Concentric is when a muscle contracts while shortening, like bending your elbow to lift a weight during a bicep curl exercise.  Eccentric is when a muscle contracts while lengthening, which happens when you lower the weight back down to the starting position.  And isometric is when the muscle contracts with no movement, like holding the weight out in front of your body without allowing it to move.

Eccentric movement is important in sports.  Anytime that a running back plants to make a cut or a pitcher throws a ball, there is an eccentric component to that movement.  Failure to train eccentric movement can lead to injury and pain.

In studies published in the International Journal of Sports PT and in the Physiotherapy journal, eccentric exercise was indicated to increase ligament strength after reconstructive surgery, decrease pain, increase function, and increase overall force of movement.  This coincides with other studies and training philosophies.

Eccentric movement places a great deal of tension on tendons and ligaments.  After reconstructive ACL surgery, one important goal is to make sure that the new ligament is as strong as possible.  The same could be said for a pitcher’s rotator cuff muscles, those tendons need to be strong as well.  Sport specific movements that incorporate eccentric movements are an important component to any strengthening routine, especially when you’re concerned with joint health and safety.  If you’re interested in sports specific eccentric training, drop a comment here or ask your physiotherapist.  Your joints will thank you.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.


Lorenz D, Reiman M. The role and implementation of eccentric training in athletic rehabilitation: tendinopathy, hamstring strains, and ACL reconstruction. Int J Sports PT. March 2011;6(1):27-44.

Maenhout A, Mahieu N, De Muynck M, et al. Eccentric training in patients with rotator cuff tendinopathy: a randomized controlled trial. Physiother. 2011;97(supplementS1).


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