Are You Plagued by Hamstring Injuries?
In today’s blog we discuss hamstring injuries – from their risk factors and recurrence rates, to return to sport and preventative conditioning.
Hamstring injuries are one of the most common injuries in professional sport and recreational sport. A two-year analysis of professional soccer teams showed that hamstring strains – or “pulled hammies” – account for 12% of all injuries. Rugby players, track athletes and dancers may also have suffered with this condition due to the specific demands of their sport, whilst recent research claims that 31% of all non-contact GAA injuries were hamstring related.

The high incidence rate of hamstring injuries has led to several researchers attempting to identify risk factors predisposing athletes to hamstring injury. Unfortunately, some of the issues raised are unchangeable – for example the older we get the more prone we will be to muscle strains. However, with some guidance and a little bit of hard work, our strength, flexibility and core stability can be increased; muscle imbalances can be addressed and endurance can be developed thereby limiting the effects of fatigue on the muscle. The evidence suggests that this will greatly reduce our risk of developing hamstring problems.

The greatest single risk factor is previous hamstring injury. It is thought that this may be a result of incomplete rehabilitation and / or an early return to sport following initial injury. A study of Australian Rules footballers showed that 12.6% of players re-injured their hamstrings during the first week of return to sports, 8.1% during the second week and a massive 30.6% over the course of the rest of the season. It is worth noting that the second injury was usually more severe and required double the time away from sport. The average hamstring injuries result in a period of 8 – 25 days away from sport.
Recent studies have compiled a list of criteria an individual should meet prior to returning to sport following a hamstring injury. In general, once full range of movement, strength and sport specific tasks can be performed pain free the player can be passed fit to return to play. Depending on your sport, this may include the ability to perform explosive sprints, stop quickly, change direction, or jump / hop.
However, these criteria should go hand in hand with an assessment by a physiotherapist focusing on the individual’s characteristics, past history, mechanism of injury and functional progression since injury. This can provide a more specific return to your sport programme.

Given the high injury recurrence rate related to hamstring strains a preventative exercise programme should always be incorporated to training and warm-ups following a return to sport. This should focus on agility, trunk stabilization, neuromuscular control and eccentric exercises. The effectiveness of such a programme was demonstrated in a recent study which compared it to a basic hamstring stretch and strengthening programme. Re-injury rates in the comprehensive programme were 0% at 2 week and 7.7% at 1 year, while the stretch and strengthening group were 54% at 2 weeks and 70% at 1 year. Studies have shown that some of these recurrent hamstring injuries are due to load management.

We here in Carrick-on-Shannon Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic are delighted to provide an assessment, and management and rehabilitation strategies tailored to your sporting needs if you feel this is an area we could help you with. Call us at 071 9671533 and we’ll take it from there, thanks for reading.