Recurring Hamstring Strains…where to now?

Recurring Hamstring Strains…where to now?

By Jackson McKellar (Senior Physiotherapist @ Stride)

When hamstring injuries occur, health professionals such as Physiotherapists are usually really good at managing them by focusing on building up strength in the hamstring muscle group and guiding individuals back to their chosen activity and sport.

Unfortunately however, recurrent or reoccurring strains are really common and for those that experience them, the frustration is real!

So why then does this injury often reoccur and what are the important considerations to help prevent them from happening again?

In my experience working with people in the community to elite athletes and everything in between, the answer lies in what actually occurs when we injure muscle tissue as well as understanding what is required of the body to get back to activity and playing sport.

It has now been well documented and known that the hamstring muscle group plays a significant role in force production to propel us forward and particularly during high speed running. We also know that they are commonly injured during the later stages of the running cycle when our leg is swinging through and before our leg hits the ground. At this stage of the running cycle there is ‘maximal stretch’ and ‘maximal force’ going through this group of muscles simultaneously which in the presence of factors such as strength deficits, injury can occur.

So the answer is simple then… get the hamstrings stronger at longer lengths so they can tolerate the force required in order to run fast! If only if it was that simple!

“When we run at high speeds, there are high forces going through the whole body, not just the hamstring group in isolation, so it makes sense to suggest that we need to look beyond the hamstring muscles alone when getting back to activity and sport successfully.”

Strength around the pelvis and in particular the hip flexor muscle group directly impacts what’s happening to the hamstring muscle group when we run. Further to this, someone’s ability to absorb and express force efficiently throughout the entire body will also impact the hamstring group. In a nut shell, we need to address the entire body as a bigger system that works together to allow us to do the activities that we want it to do.

My Three non-negotiable’s when managing hamstring strain injuries:

  1. Get the hamstring muscle group strong at different lengths and positions
  2. Ensure the muscles of the hips and pelvis such as the hip flexors and glutes are strong and working in conjunction with the hamstrings
  3. Address movement quality including running technique (make sure this isn’t missed!)

In summary, recurrent hamstring strains are common and highly frustrating! Fortunately they can also be managed and prevented quite easily when they are respected for what they are and managed under the guidance of trained professional such as a Physiotherapist!

Hopefully this article provides you with some useful information and if you are someone that has experienced a hamstring injury or a number of hamstring injuries, I would be more than happy to speak with you and outline how I can help!




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