Hamstring injuries are very common in winter sports, particularly footy, soccer and rugby. Hamstrings are typically injured with accelerating and decelerating while running. Many winter sports involve high physical demands and your muscles are likely to be colder so it’s a good idea to be aware of these types of injuries.
What are the “Hammies”?
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles in the posterior thigh (back of the thigh) and can be torn including ruptures, or strained depending on how they are injured. They have an important role in accelerating and decelerating while running and sometimes changing direction.
How are Hamstings injured?
As mentioned earlier hamstrings are often injured with sudden pushing off or stopping while playing sport. They can also be injured by slipping, with one leg being forced out forwards. When you injure a hamstring, you often feel a sudden sharp pain in the back of the thigh, sometimes you’ll also feel a “pop” which is usually attributed to a tear. Commonly the muscle will become painful and swollen rather quickly and later bruising may appear. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are useful initial treatment measures to help the injury settle. While these methods won’t necessarily help the muscle heal quicker, they can reduce the symptoms and help you start moving and recovering quicker.
Can hamstring injuries be prevented?
There are several strategies you can use to reduce the likelihood of a hamstring injury. Poor muscle flexibility means tension is placed on the muscle earlier in the range of movement which will make it more likely to be overstretched and injured. Make sure you manage tightness in your muscles around sports participation and ensure your recovery post-exercise loosens these muscles to ensure they will be ready for your next training/game. Strength and conditioning of the leg muscles, including the hamstrings, helps distribute load more favourably. Stronger hamstrings are able to cope with more load before becoming injured. Bio-mechanics, sport specific training and strengthening/conditioning are very effective and efficient ways to achieve sport fit hamstrings.
How do I know if I can return to sport after doing a hammy?
The muscle injury will need to heal, for a strain or “pulled hammy” this can be as quick as 2-3 weeks. Returning following a tear will take longer, with a moderate tear taking 4-6 weeks and a large tear taking up to several months. Once the muscle tissue has healed it’s not always as simple as strapping on your boots or shoes and getting back to it. With the required rest the muscles will become a bit weaker and decondition. Unfortunately, this is somewhat necessary but will need to be addressed before you are fully fit to return to sport. Some conditioning can be commenced before your body has fully healed to help streamline the recovery process but needs to be done carefully with consideration not to aggravate or re-injury the muscle as it heals. Our physios can guide you through this to ensure you are back to sport ASAP without risking another injury.
If you have injured a hammy or have a history of hamstring injuries and want to prevent doing another one contact our team at Fairfield Physiotherapy for an assessment and tailored treatment plan to your individual injury and specific sporting demands.