Hamstring strain injuries account for 12-16% of all injuries in English and Australian professional football. Injuries not only cost professional sporting clubs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost player time but also cut short the careers of athletes.

The Nordbord, a hamstring testing system developed by two QUT researchers, is a fast, accurate, reliable hamstring system now in use world-wide.

More than eight years ago, QUT student Mr David Opar and Dr Anthony Shield, originally from the Faculty of Health, Schools of Human Movement Studies and Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, were interested in developing a device to assist with performing Nordic hamstring exercises.

Dr Tony Shield said that “amongst athletes who are weak at this exercise, they’re four times more likely to be injured.”

The researchers created a simple flat board fitted with a one piece ankle restraint. In 2010, they saw the potential to expand the innovation to one that could predict one of the most common sporting injuries by measuring when hamstrings are likely to snap, keeping athletes in the game.

Dr Shield explained: “If we can identify when someone is at risk of hamstring injury, we can intervene.” By adding instrumentation to the device, athletes can measure, record and monitor the strength of their hamstrings whilst performing the Nordic Curl exercise.

Being able to measure hamstring strength is important for monitoring rehabilitation, measuring strength performance; and potentially predicting hamstring injury.

In 2011, Mr David Opar contacted QUT bluebox seeking assistance for commercialising the invention.

QUT bluebox invested Proof-of-Concept (POC) funding in the innovation to design and develop advanced prototypes, and for commercial trialling of the device with end-users: elite sporting teams and sports clinics including the AFL and Rugby Union codes.

As well, QUT bluebox engaged a patent attorney and assisted with patent filing to protect the intellectual property.

QUT bluebox, Kate Taylor, negotiated trials with Liverpool Football Club, the Danish Football Association and Paris St Germaine Football Club, which gave it a presence in the European Football Leagues, a substantial market for the device.

The English Premier League (EPL) – Soccer’s biggest stage – and Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United also trialled the device. Dr Tony Shield said, “Hamstring injury was costing the EPL 74 billion pounds so basically there was just a huge amount of money that they’re paying people who couldn’t play.”

More than 200 AFL players from five professional clubs participated in the trials over two years including the Adelaide Football Club (AFC).

Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Qatar, one of the world’s leading sports medicine facilities trialled the device to assess over 300 athletes.

The collaboration arose out of a QUT bluebox funded trip to the UK, where the QUT researchers presented at the 2013 Football Medicine Conference in London.

A successful Accelerating Commercialisation grant application was submitted by QUT bluebox to boost the commercialisation process.

In 2016, Vald Performance, a QUT spin-out company, was set up with the help of Brent Watt from QUT bluebox to manufacture the NordBord Hamstring Testing System.

QUT is the common thread at Vald Performance, as the company is headed by Mr Malone as CEO (QUT alumnus, Law and Finance), Sam James as Chief Technology Officer (QUT alumnus, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering) and Christopher Rowe as Operations Director (QUT alumnus, Law), while Dr Shield and Dr Opar maintain advisory roles alongside their continuing research.

Manufactured in Australia, and in part by Brisbane-based metalwork company Minecorp, Mr Malone said, “the production of the Nordbord Hamstring Testing System was a great example of how technology and innovation could help drive Australian manufacturing.”

“Years of sports science, research and technology has gone into the development of the NordBord Hamstring Testing System and we’re thrilled to already be filling orders for dozens of elite teams and sports organisations around the world.”

According to Sam James, the NordBord is made up of over 200 components, including custom metal, sensors, and electronics assemblies. The structural frame contains steel and aluminium with hooks that restrain the ankles in a kneeling position, he says. Load cells, which are precision force sensors, connect to the onboard computer.

“The NordBord collects streams of force data from each leg during the Nordic Hamstring Exercise,” he says. “This data is transmitted from the NordBord’s sensors and it’s visualized on the ScoreBord app.”

“The Nordbord tests 'eccentric' strength - the amount of force that a muscle can generate while it lengthens, with injuries most often occurring in athletes with poor strength or strength imbalances.”

“The NordBord’s advanced sensors and data capture software enables clinicians, coaches and high performance staff to accurately understand the hamstring strength of each player.”

Mr Malone said if an athlete was fatigued or returning from injury, the NordBord would allow their coaches to quantify their progress and adapt their training load accordingly.

"The NordBord Hamstring Testing System is changing the face of elite sports science, and we’re extremely excited to see it influencing the world’s largest sporting organisations.”

Today, the total of NordBord systems sold is more than 300, and athletes tested more than 26,000, with more than 105,000 individual tests conducted.

Most recently the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) acquired multiple NordBord testing systems for its national and provincial teams, adding to the existing users: 15 AFL teams, including Port Adelaide and the Melbourne Demons, 16 English Premier League clubs, including Leicester City, and in the USA by 10 NBA basketball teams and 18 NFL teams.

QUT Bluebox assistance

  • I.P strategy and protection
  • Patent filing and inventorship determination
  • Proof of concept funding of $132,500 (2013) to develop and trial technology
  • Commercialisation and business strategy
  • Hiring of consultants for redeveloping hardware and software for Hamstring device to robust commercial-quality device.
  • Preparing applications and submissions for commercialisation grants eg Competitive Innovation Fund.
  • Organising experimental prototypes and trialling what appeared to be the largest study in AFL teams at the time, leading to reputational gain for the researchers in the field of hamstring injury.
  • Forming a QUT spin-out company, Vald Performance
  • Innovation challenge participant  (Winner 2014)