Mechanism of Injury
There are two main ways that people strain their hamstrings. The muscles are either stretched beyond their limits or the force being applied is too great.
Of these two options, the second one is more common in athletes. This type of injury happens when you accelerate rapidly. It can happen on the sports field as you take off quickly to chase a player or the ball or it can happen as you change pace, change direction or lift a weight that is just too heavy.
Once you have suffered a hamstring tear they can be troublesome and difficult to rehabilitate, as well as cause ongoing issues.
Injury PreventionA number of factors have been identified which can predispose people to suffering hamstring injuries. These include age, previous injury, reduced movement in the hip and weak hamstrings.
Warm upPart of protecting yourself from hamstring injury is making sure you warm up properly and consistently. It needs to be done every time you train or take part in sport. It is generally agreed these days that an active warm up is best. This should include things like running, leg swings forwards and backwards and bending forward to touch the ground.
Warm downWarming down tends to be the most forgotten part of the whole process. It is very easy to finish your session, exhausted, and head straight for the changing rooms. It is important to warm down your muscles with some gentle running and stretching. At this time static stretching can be done, that is a prolonged stretch for 30-plus seconds. Hamstring stretches are commonly done incorrectly so it is important to have the correct technique.
Handy Tips For Hamstring StretchHamstring stretches are often done wrong. Bending over to try and touch your toes or put your head on your knee will not necessarily stretch the muscle properly. The stretch needs to be felt in the belly of the muscle, that is, the back of your thigh.
If you feel the stretch behind your knee then it is likely that all you are doing is putting tension on the nerves in your leg and not through the muscle.
Specific exerciseThe “Nordic Hamstring” stretch is specifically aimed at preventing hamstring injuries. It is a simple exercise that has been shown by several studies to significantly reduce hamstring injuries. The key to making this exercise successful is to do it consistently.
How to perform the Nordic Hamstring exercise:
- Kneeling down with a partner holding firmly around your ankles to hold you stable throughout the movement.
- Stay up tall and brace your core muscles so that your trunk does not bend during the movement
- Your arms can remain by your side.
- Gradually lean forward, keeping your trunk straight.
- As your weight comes forward you should feel your hamstrings start working hard
- Continue to lean into the movement very slowly, using your hamstrings to control the movement
- When you reach a point where your hamstrings can no longer control your movement, allow yourself to drop to the floor
- Use your hands to catch your descent onto the floor and you should end up in a “push up” type position
- Work your way back up to the start position and repeat.