If you love playing football, you’re probably well acquainted with hamstring injuries – either having experienced them yourself or had a team mate down with them. Hamstring muscle injuries are actually the most common that AFL players will experience, and on average, these injuries interfere with nearly 20% of games your team will play.
What Are the Hamstrings?
There are actually two elements to the hamstrings: the hamstring muscles and the hamstring tendons. The hamstring muscles are large and extend down the back of your thigh from your pelvis to the upper part of your shin bone – the hamstring tendons are what actually attach the muscles to the bones. Hamstrings bend your knee and straighten your leg, and although they play a minimal part in walking, they are right there when it comes to running and jumping.
There are actually 3 hamstring muscles that power your running, and these are the ones that can sideline you if they are injured. There are not only 3 hamstring muscles, there are also 3 levels of hamstring injury:
- Grade 1 injuries are fairly mild and are usually caused because you overstretched your hamstrings while running. Stretching out your legs too far is the most common way for this injury to occur.
- Grade 2 injuries involve an actual tear in the muscle and these can take weeks for healing to occur.
- Grade 3 injuries mean that one of the 3 muscles has been torn from bone. A Grade 3 injury can take months to heal and can sometimes involve surgery.
All of these injuries cause varying amounts of pain and immobility.
Causes of Hamstring Injuries
While a hamstring injury can happen to any player, you will have a greater chance of experiencing an injury if one or more of these elements are involved:
- Weak muscles are much more likely to be injured than are strong ones.
- If one of your hamstrings is significantly stronger than the others, such as can happen with the quadriceps hamstrings, this imbalance can cause damage to the others.
- Stiff and tight muscles are much less likely to be able to stand up to the stress of an AFL game.
- Tired muscles are an injury waiting to happen.
Treating Hamstring Injuries
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, anyone who has been laid up with a hamstring injury should always follow RICE:
These relatively simple approaches to treating a muscle injury are the primary way of dealing with a muscle strain or rupture. It doesn’t matter if you’re impatient to get back to the field; the muscles simply need a certain amount of time to heal.
Massage therapy has also been shown to be very beneficial when dealing with hamstring muscle strains. Under the skilled hands of a therapist, more blood will be delivered to the affected muscles so that healing can progress steadily, the warmth provided by massage will loosen tight, painful muscle tissue, increased circulation can help to drain away the fluids that are causing swelling. In addition, the relaxation that massage causes will help deal with pain as endorphins are released.
Preventing Hamstring Injuries
There is obviously no 100% way of preventing hamstring injuries, but there are ways that you can make it less likely that they will occur:
- Keep up a regular exercise regimen during off season to maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
- Warm up with active stretching exercises before getting into the game.
- Compression shorts are useful for keeping the hamstrings warm and well supplied with blood.
- Regular massage therapy will help to keep your muscles more supple and your joints more flexible
Now that we are in prelim mode for the footy why not come in for a massage session and help yourself prepare for the upcoming season.
Don’t let any aches go for too long. Having dealt with numerous football players I’m sure I can support your season.