How To Reduce The Risk Of Hamstring Strains

With winter sports well and truly underway, it’s no surprise that the team at BeFit are seeing many sports-related injuries come through the door! A common injury we see are hamstring muscle strains. This usually results from either a high speed sprint effort, or putting the hamstrings under fast stretch due to a fast kicking or bending action. Hamstring strains are a common injury among athletes, especially those who participate in sports involving sprinting, jumping, kicking, and sudden changes in direction.

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located on the back of the thigh. The are the following:

  • Biceps femoris
  • Semitendinosus
  • Semimembranosus.

These muscles play a crucial role in running, as they are responsible for bending the knee and extending the hip during the swing phase of the running gait.

When you run, the hamstrings work dynamically to propel you forward by flexing the knee and extending the hip, allowing for efficient movement and stride length. They also help stabilize the knee joint and provide support during the landing and push-off phases of running. Given their integral role in running mechanics, it’s essential to keep the hamstrings strong, flexible, and properly conditioned to reduce the risk of injury and optimize performance.

With the right preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of hamstring strains and keep yourself in the game. Here are some tips to help you stay injury-free:

  1. Warm-Up Properly:

    A thorough warm-up is essential before engaging in any physical activity. Spend at least 10-15 minutes raising the heart rate, as well as dynamic stretches and movements that target the hamstrings such as leg swings, lunges, and high knees. This helps increase blood flow to the muscles and improves flexibility, reducing the risk of injury.
  2. Incorporate Strength Training:

    Weak hamstrings are more prone to injury. Include exercises that target the hamstrings and glutes. This can include hip dominant movements such as Romanian deadlifts, bridges, and Hip Thrusts. Knee dominant movements are also important, and this includes hamstring curls, Nordic curl variations, slider curls, and bridges. Aim for 1-2 exercises a session for 2 sessions per week. It’s important to have enough recovery between sessions so that you don’t experience too much muscle soreness.
  3. Improve Flexibility:

    Tight hamstrings can be more susceptible to strains. Incorporate regular stretching into your routine to improve flexibility. A blend of static stretches such as toe touches and half kneeling hamstring stretches, as well as dynamic stretches such as a single leg arabesques and inchworms can help loosen tight muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
  4. Consider Running Technique:

    Whether you’re sprinting or performing agility drills, proper technique is crucial for preventing injuries. Work with a coach or trainer to ensure you’re using the correct form during training and competition. Pay attention to your body mechanics and avoid overstriding.
  5. Gradually Increases in Training Load:

    Avoid sudden spikes in training intensity or volume, as this can overload the muscles and increase the risk of injury. Instead, gradually progress your workouts over time, allowing your body to adapt to the increased demands. It’s important to expose the body to high intensity training so that you develop the necessary conditioning. However, listen to your body and give yourself adequate rest and recovery between sessions.
  6. Stay Hydrated and Properly Fueled:

    Dehydration and inadequate nutrition can impair muscle function and increase the risk of injury. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated, and fuel your body with a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to support muscle health and recovery.
  7. Don’t Ignore Warning Signs:

    Pay attention to any signs of muscle tightness, discomfort, or fatigue, as these could be early warning signs of an impending injury. If you experience any pain or discomfort in your hamstrings after a sprint effort or stretch mechanism such as kicking or bending, be sure to flag it as soon as possible so that it gets managed appropriately.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your training routine, you can reduce the risk of hamstring strains and keep yourself performing at your best on the field or court. Remember, injury prevention is key to long-term athletic success, so prioritize taking care of your body to stay in the game for years to come!

Morrie Toum – BeFit Training Physio Coogee

Morrie Toum – BeFit Training Physio Coogee

Morrie completed a Doctor of Physiotherapy at Macquarie University after completing his undergraduate degree and Honours thesis in Sport and Exercise Science at University of Technology Sydney.

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