I THINK I PULLED A HAMMY!
How often have you said that, heard your teammate say it or find out that your favorite pro-player did it??
Hamstring “pulls” is one of the most common injuries in athletics.
Whether or not you are a seasoned athlete or weekend warrior, you chance of injuring your hamstring is pretty high.
But why is that?
The hamstring complex is located on the back of your thigh and is comprised of three muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris (long and short head).
Without going into a biology lesson, most of those muscles attach across the knee and hip joint.
Their primary function is knee flexion and hip extension. They also help with rotation and stabilizing the knee joint.
They are activated while standing, walking, sprinting, squatting, and jumping. Basically, overall leg movement. Typically, an injury occurs when the hamstrings get overloaded during a dynamic movement.
This can happen due to extreme lengthening or a sudden and excessive load. Also, muscle imbalances such as stronger quads and weaker glutes can contribute to a hamstring injury as well as fatigue and limited hamstring flexibility.
Having a well-balanced strength and conditioning program, greatly reduces the chance for injury. Training the hips, back and legs appropriately, allows for each area to perform their function correctly and effectively so other muscles don’t have to take on more stress, thus functioning maximally and safely as they were designed.
So… since you don’t want to be one of the many, but rather one of the few… how can you prevent a hamstring injury or decrease the chances of getting one.
There are many different thoughts on this topic as I have referenced before, but I am a firm believer in a solid warm up.
Warm up time may vary from one person to another, but typically 10-15 minutes of low intensity movement is good. Focus on the upper and lower body.
After all, it’s all going to move at some point during your work out. General to sports specific exercises are best.
You should ultimately warm up the way you will move in your activity, just at lower to mid speeds.
Once again, coaches, trainers, doctors, PT’s have different ideas on this, but I believe stretching should be a crucial part of your program. After your warm-up, static to dynamic stretching can occur. I recommend a static stretch for more “problem” areas. Otherwise, dynamic stretching should be the last ROM movement you do before your activities begin. You want your muscle to be ready for fast action, not slow.
As I mentioned earlier, a well-rounded strength program is vital to helping prevent injuries. This means not only having strong hamstrings, but glutes, quads, calves, back etc.
The body works in unison with itself so being off kilter or out of balance can affect other parts of the body. We typically blame the injured muscle for not performing correctly, when it may have been another muscle that contributed indirectly.
Get with your coach, trainer or other qualified exercise/sports specialist and create a total body program, that will not only enhance your athletic potential but will keep you out of the training room!
Eat to perform:
Having pizza 5 nights a week, no matter how many veggies you throw on top, is not the best training table entrée. Like any other part of your overall training program, take this seriously and develop a plan.
You don’t have to be unrealistic and completely take a food you like off your personal menu, but you want to make sure that all the work you’re doing in the weight room and on the field is backed up with great nutrition and your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
I found it best for my athletes to have a daily eating plan in place. If you know what you are going to eat ahead of time and have it available, you’ll be less likely to go for the cookies, chips, and ice cream.
I can’t emphasize this enough. You should always, constantly, hydrate. Before, during and after practice and games. Muscle performs more effectively and is less prone to injury or cramping when they have the nutrients and fluids they need. A drink with electrolytes is a must.
When you breath, sweat, spit, and pee, you are losing mostly water but some vital electrolytes as well. Being thirsty is a great indicator that you need more fluids but if you hydrate before that, you are doing your body well. Remember, your body is roughly 60% water and must have it to function optimally.
Your body recovers and rebuilds when it rests. That’s the way it was designed. Eating, sleeping, hydrating and modalities like stretching, foam rolling, massage, cold baths, compression therapy and more will help with the recovery process.
Lastly, if you feel a twinge or tweak in your hamstring or any other muscle, don’t try to push through it or tough it out. Getting treatment quickly will decrease the chance of additional injury and speed up recover time. After all, we train to play, not to sit on the bench wishing we were in the game!
Keep moving forward!
Brian Lange writes on fitness and sport specific training. He has been training clients and athletes for over 30 years. You can reach Brian at email@example.com