Hamstring muscle strains occurs when there is sudden contraction of the muscle with excessive force. It is most likely to be strained in sports where there is sudden change of speed or direction. There are two distinct type of injuries to the hamstrings, based on how the injury happened (injury mechanism). The most common is the sprinting type injury, which occurs during high speed running. The other is the stretching injury, which occurs when kicking, while doing splits or during tackles in contact sports. Research has shown that the sprinting type generally recovers faster than the stretching injury.
Why is it important to focus on my hamstrings?
Hamstring injury and tightness is the most common reason for delay in return to sports participation. Although tight hamstrings are common, it can lead to severe strains or contribute to other problems such as back or knee pain. It is also worth noting that hamstrings can get shorter as a consequence of long term back problems.
What can I do about it?
Although it is important to stretch the hamstrings, it is also necessary to strengthen the hamstrings which could be weakened by previous injury or prolonged tightness. Research has shown that you need a combination of dynamic stretching and also strengthening to prevent strains. Static stretching is not adequate on its own. Having strong quads with weakened hamstrings is a risk factor for knee injuries. This is true, especially for Anterior Cruciate Ligamentinjuries since hamstrings support the ACL in providing dynamic stability of the knee.
What can I do to improve the strength and flexibility of my hamstrings?
Below is an injury prevention programme to improve both the flexibility and strength of the hamstrings, aiding your return to your sports or running. If you are not naturally supple, you can still improve your flexibility by following this routine at least twice a week. Regular sports massage can also help in loosening tight muscles if you do running or contact sports, as well as use of foam roller for self – massage.
Disclaimer: This is not a rehab programme for the management of acute hamstring strains. You should seek the guidance of a registered health professional for the management and rehabilitation of injuries. This programme is designed as a pre-hab routine to strengthen your hamstrings and to reduce your injury risk.
- Standing chair stretch
- Lying towel stretch
- Foam roller
Hold all stretches for at least 15 seconds and for at least 3 – 4 times.
- Heel Bridging
- Lie on the floor with the knees bent. Lift the pelvis slowly while keeping the weight on your heels and hold for a slow three seconds. Return to the starting position.
- The load can be increased by putting more body weight on one leg and extending the other, which is called single-leg heel bridging.
- Gym- ball hamstring curls
- Lie with your head, shoulders and upper back on a gym mat and with your feet together on top of a gym ball. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
- Keeping your back straight, raise your hips and drag the ball towards your backside with your heels. Pause for three seconds at the top of the move and slowly return to the starting position
- Single leg dead-lift
- Stand on one leg and keep your back straight. Lean forwards from your hips and not from your back.
- Bend your knees slightly while letting the weights travel straight down. Keep this movement slow and controlled.
If you are doing this movement correctly, you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes and nothing in your lower back.
Perform at Your Best,
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