HAMSTRING INJURY PREVENTION
Hamstring injuries are a common occurrence among elite and amateur athletes. Epidemiological studies indicate that anywhere between 8-25% of athletes report hamstring injury during regular season football in the US. From those occurrences 30% are likely to reinjure within three months. With rate of injury being so high coaches must become more educated on hamstring anatomy and injury prevention.
Hamstring injuries are classified according to three categorical grades:
Grade 1: mild strain where only a few fibers are torn.
Grade 2: moderate strain with an incomplete tear.
Grade 3: complete tear of the muscle.
Several factors can put an individual at risk for hamstring injury: poor flexibility, muscular imbalances, prior injury, and frequency of sport participation. Athletes who fail to train the hamstrings in the gym put themselves in danger on the field. Adequate warm-ups are essential to preparing for excessive demand on the muscle when participating in a field sport.
In most individuals, relative strength imbalances exist between the hamstrings and quadriceps. Isokinetic testing has shown that when a greater than 20% strength deficit exists between hamstring eccentric force production versus quadriceps concentric force production, an individual is at four times greater risk for hamstring injury.
The best evidence supporting decreased hamstring injury occurrence is the incorporation of eccentric hamstring exercises to a resistance-training program. Nordic hamstring curls and stability ball hamstring curls are two excellent exercises to train the hamstrings both concentrically and eccentrically.
Flexibility is essential to muscular health. The PNF hamstring stretch is a highly effective mode in achieving flexibility through an individual’s normal range of motion. This stretch can most easily be done laying supine with partner assistance, but also solo with a stretching strap. Quadriceps flexibility is another facet to not ignore. My favorite quad stretch is the couch stretch. For lesser flexible individuals a side-lying ankle pull will also help to stretch the quads.
In conclusion, hamstring injuries are preventable through appropriate prehab exercises as well as active stretching. Taking preemptive steps to increase mobility and strengthen weak chains will optimize your movement system and improve correct mechanics.
Cameron et al 2009. Effect of HamSprint Drills training programme on lower limb neuromuscular control in Australian football players.
Heiderschmidt et al. Hamstring strain injuries: recommendations for rehabilitation and prevention. JOSPT 2010.
Yu B, Queen RM, Abbey AN, et al. Hamstring muscle kinematics and activation during overground sprinting. J Biomech. 2008 Nov 14. 41(15):3121-6.
Goldman EF, Jones DE. Interventions for preventing hamstring injuries: a systematic review. Physiotherapy. 2011 Jun. 97(2):91-9.