Hamstring muscle injuries are common in sports which place a high demand on running speed and power, such as athletics and football1. Hamstring injuries can be a frustrating because the symptoms tend to be persistent, healing is slow, and the rate of re-injury is high2.
Unfortunately there is no definitive way to completely avoid hamstring injuries however the risk can be significantly reduced by addressing these 3 key areas.
- Adequate warm up
The benefits of warming up in reducing the risk of hamstring injury have been studied extensively. The warm up should aim to get the blood flowing through your body and increase your heart rate. A thorough warm-up consisting of functional and dynamic movements has the potential to prevent muscle strain injury.
According to Dr. Modabber of the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group “Not warming up properly may add to the risk factor. A cold, unstretched muscle that is required to contract at maximum intensity is at highest risk” 3.
He further stresses that individuals should allow for an extra warm-up period in days of cold weather.
Click the link below for a thorough warm-up program prior to exercise.
Decreased flexibility has been shown to have a significant association with hamstring injury. Individual’s flexibility should be maximized by a regular stretching program ensuring a period of adequate stretching prior to the intended athletic activity.
The hamstring muscles are ‘viscoelastic’ meaning they exhibit both viscous and elastic characteristics and therefore need to have sufficient range of movement in order to avoid being strained.
A study carried out of elite soccer players found a strong correlation between preseason hamstring tightness and subsequent hamstring injury in players with tight hamstring muscles 4.
Click the link to see how you can increase flexibility of the hamstrings prior to exercise
Eccentric strengthening in the form of Nordic Hamstring Curls have been found to significantly increase the eccentric torque in the hamstring muscle of an elite football players.
A study carried out on footballer players comparing two different strength training programmes found that Nordic hamstrings training (eccentric strengthening) over a 10 week period increased hamstring eccentric torque and reduced the risk of hamstring injury when compared with traditional hamstring curls (concentric training) 5.
Click the link to see how Nordic hamstring curls are performed.
- Askling C, Karlsson J, Thorstensson A. Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2003;13:244-250.
- Petersen. J and Holmich. P. Evidence based prevention of hamstring injuries in sport. Br J Sports Med 2005;39:319–323.
- M. Ramin Modabber, MD, Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group, Santa Monica, California
- Witvrouw E, Daneels L, Asselman. Muscle flexibility as a risk factor for developing muscle injuries in male professional soccer players: a prospective study. Am J Sports Med Jan 2003:31;1: p 41-6
- Mjølsnes R, Arnason A, Østhagen T, et al. A 10-week randomized trial comparing eccentric vs. concentric hamstring strength training in well-trained soccer players. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2004;14:311–17.