Athletes routinely experience hamstring injuries. However, weekend warriors are not immune from the injury. Researchers are investigating why hamstring injuries often occur multiple times. Here’s a look at the hamstring and what makes it fail.
What is the Hamstring?
The hamstring is not a single muscle. Rather, it’s a group of muscles located on the back of the thigh. It’s the mechanism that allows the leg to bend at the knee. Most injuries require rest and the patient to complete prescribed physical therapy.
There are three types of hamstring injury. Grade one injuries are usually not that painful. Injured patients can walk without a lot of trouble. Meanwhile, grade two injuries are painful because some muscles are partly torn. Grade three injuries are very painful because the hamstring is torn. You may not be able to walk for several days.
A Painful Injury
How do you know the hamstring is injured? There will be pain behind the thigh and around the buttocks. There will be swelling and the pain goes to the knee when walking. Only a doctor or physical therapist can make a firm diagnosis.
Recurrent Hamstring Injuries
Soccer player Michael Owen had a bad hamstring injury when he was 19. He feels his career was in jeopardy from that time on. Researchers say the number one factor in recurrent injuries is having the first one. Owen’s first injury kept him out of soccer for five months. He eventually retired early due to repeated injuries. A study shows that hamstring injuries account for 12 percent of injuries among soccer players.
Experts believe repeated injuries are caused by incomplete rehab. Take a look at the statistics. An Australian study shows that 12.6 percent of players reinjured the hamstring within a week of returning to play. In addition, 8.1 percent reported another injury during the second week. Over 30 percent of players reported re-injury during the remainder of the season.
Other Factors in Recurrent Injury
Fatigue often leads to recurrent injury because it causes physical changes within muscles. Further, researchers say one’s coordination and technique are off when they’re tired. Problems in another area of the body can threaten the hamstring. An Australian doctor believes problems in the lumbar spine can lead to a recurrent hamstring injury. The doctor opines that back problems with nerve root irritation can lead to spasms or irritation in the hamstring muscle group. Likewise, the doctor thinks a knee injury can destabilize the hamstring area. Age and decreased flexibility may also be a factor.
Hamstring Injury Treatment
Minor hamstring injuries may not require medical treatment. There are some things to do at home:
· ice the leg for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours
· mildly stretch the leg for improved blood flow
· put the leg on a pillow when sitting or lying in bed
· place a compression bandage around the leg to prevent swelling
· try anti-inflammatory medications like NSAID’s
If pain and swelling persist, see a physician.
Preventing Hamstring Injury
Stretching before exercise goes a long way toward preventing an injury. It’s important to maintain flexibility and exercise more. It’s also a good idea to stop exercising immediately if you feel pain.
Physical therapy is an answer if someone has recurring hamstring injuries. A therapist works out a series of movements that help prevent injury. Treatment includes deep tissue massage, dry needling, ultrasound, and stretching. Remember, if you stay flexible, so does your hamstring.