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Usain Bolt, The Movement Police, and Keyboard Sprinting Experts

Last week, Usain Bolt withdrew from the Jamaican National Track and Field Championships with a grade 1 hamstring strain, a mild but extremely untimely injury with the Olympics approaching. The reaction from some factions in the physical preparation and sports rehabilitation community has been disappointing and speaks to a larger issue in these fields- the propensity to criticize other practitioners without proper context. Many Internet commentators suggested that if Bolt had practiced what they preach he would not have sustained an injury. Hamstring injuries in sprinting are like shoulder injuries in pitchers. They are completely unavoidable at the highest level of sport. Repeatedly running or throwing as fast as humanly possible is not conducive to longevity or health. Elite sport requires one to subject the body to stresses that elicit adaptations at physiological extremes. The relationship between elite performance and health is a tight rope that medicine will never definitively navigate regardless of technological advances, improved surgical procedures, and the emergence of commercial systems of movement analysis. Considering all that Bolt has accomplished in his career, his injury history is actually quite unremarkable.

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