Hamstring injuries are very common and can be frustrating for anyone. They have a reputation for being rather stubborn to heal and recurrence is common. Before discussing more, let’s review a bit of anatomy.
The hamstring muscles are located on the back of your femur (the thigh). They extend from the bone that we sit on (the ischial tuberosity on our pelvis) and extend just past our knee. There are three hamstring muscles; the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. Generally speaking, they extend our hips and bend our knees. The hamstring can be injured a variety of ways but injury is most commonly associated with acceleration, deceleration or a change of direction (think soccer, basketball, tennis etc)
Various risk factors for hamstring strain have been reported in the literature. Being older, having a previous hamstring injury, having a previous ACL surgery, having a calf strain in the 8 weeks prior and having a leg length discrepancy are a few of them. Yet none of these have been established as an absolute slam dunk for predicting those at risk. We do know a few things though…
68% of hamstring injuries occur during running, with kicking sports like soccer being the most common. As mentioned above, hamstring injuries often recur if not looked after properly the first time around. In fact, the rate of recurrence is 13.9-63.3% in the same sporting season!
Although we mentioned that there are no definite factors that can predict hamstring injuries, older age, increased quadriceps peak torque and a history of hamstring injury are factors that have the “most” evidence of being associated with hamstring injury. Interestingly, stretching and strengthening are not the absolute best way to prevent these injuries. The evidence suggests that a rehabilitation program emphasizing agility and stability is more helpful (think sport-specific drills). At the same time, we also know that the Nordic Lower is an exercise that has good evidence for preventing hamstring strains.
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