Don't get hamstrung this season!!!!
What are the hamstrings? What do they do?
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located at the back of the thigh, attaching between your hip and your knee. These muscles are responsible for bending your knee during walking, running and sport. As such, these muscles are forced to absorb large loads during high intensity sports such as soccer but are often smaller in size to their quadricep counterparts found on the other side of your thigh.
How do they get injured?
Hamstring injuries usually occur due to the muscle having inadequate strength or flexibility in order to ably respond to a single high intensity event, or long-term overuse. Injuries can be a partial or full tear in the muscle belly in varying size, or an injury could occur to the muscle tendons themselves, typically building up over longer periods of exercise.
Injuries due to a lack of flexibility in the muscle can occur during events such as slide tackling whereby the back of the thigh is stretched, and potentially overstretched to cause an injury. Having more flexible quadricep muscles at the front of your thigh, comparatively to the flexibility of your hamstrings can cause a muscle imbalance and become a risk factor for this type of injury.
Similarly, injuries can occur whereby the hamstring muscles are unable to cope with excessive load placed on them, typically seem in situations such as high intensity running whereby the hamstrings contract on your swinging leg in order to slow it down in preparation for foot placement. This then results in having substantial body weight placed through your muscles once your foot has been planted. In a situation like this where the hamstring muscle is contracting to decelerate the leg and also taking considerable load, it becomes vulnerable and can be susceptible to injury should it not have adequate strength.
Incidence of injuries:
According to the UEFA elite club injury study report for 2021/22 which analyses medical data for all European teams playing in the UEFA Champions league, it was found that that hamstring injuries accounted for 24% of all sustained injuries. Similarly concerning, data from the 2001/02 season found that hamstring injuries only accounted for 12% of all injuries, thereby highlighting a damaging upward trend which underpins an increase of 12% incidence proportionally. Of those injuries recorded within the 2021/22 data set, 66% of hamstring injuries occurred during a match and 34% occurred during training.
And thats for elite players - imagine the numbers for old, unfit over 35 and 45 players!!!!
How we can prevent this?
The best form of prevention is to effectively manage risk factors for injuries. These include muscle weakness/tightness/fatigue, lack of a proper warmup and previous hamstring injury.
An adequate training regime including a gradual preseason increase in intensity to build match fitness is not only important for your cardiovascular endurance but also the endurance of your muscles. Even if you have been active during the off season, soccer forces your muscles to contract and activate in specific sequences and patterns and it’s important to once again get your muscles acclimatised to soccer related movements.
Dynamic stretching can help to improve muscle flexibility by moving the muscle through its range and holding a brief stretch at the end of it’s range before repeating. Strength can be built up not only by going to the gym, but by performing soccer drills involving varying running intensities and directional changes. A slow progression through training intensity can refamiliarize hamstrings with their need to accept load during running and help keep them sharp and strong during the season.
Lastly, a good warm up is an essential component in prevention of injuries during sporting competition. We’d recommend a routine such as the FIFA 11+ warmup which is a well founded and established program you can find online to comprehensively prepare your muscles for a period of increased demand. This program roughly takes 20 minutes to complete and can be performed before games or training sessions.
How can our physiotherapists help?
Want some help with hamstring injury prevention - give us a call and let one of our experienced physiotherapists design an exercise program tailored for you.
Should something occur to your hamstrings while you are training or playing, you feel pain and/or weakness in the area or maybe your just unsure about something - our experienced physios can help you.
We will systematically assess and diagnose your hamstring injury and work with you to establish an exercise and treatment plan tailored to achieving your goals and retuning you to the pitch as soon as possible.