Hamstring Strains in Runners

3rd April 2015

Professional sprinters show a high incidence of hamstring strains. In fact, research has reported that the majority of hamstring strains occur while an athlete is running at maximal or close to maximal speeds (sprinting), where perfect neuromuscular control is required.

Muscle strains often occur during eccentric contraction which is likely in hamstring injuries, especially during running. Due to their eccentric, shock absorbing role during rapid knee extension of the late swing phase of the running cycle, the hamstrings are at risk of a lengthening strain. Furthermore, the stance phase, where the hamstrings are shortening, may cause concentric hamstring injury risk in sprinters. These two forms of hamstring muscle strain highlight why hamstring strain is highly prevalent in sprinters.

The sports therapist must return the sprinter back to full participation in the shortest but safest time. Thus, being aware of the gait stage of injury and considering the precise musculotendinous demands during the injurious phase of sprinting assists the therapist in implementing a suitable strengthening programme which is specific for the sprinter.

Hamstring injuries require varying convalescence. Following an acute hamstring strain, the muscle tissue triggers the inflammatory phase of healing, which results in acute pain, oedema and phagocytic activity. The initial focus post hamstring muscle strain is to minimise pain and oedema. Once the oedema and pain have decreased and active range of movement is initiated, it is safe to begin progressive strengthening.

Deficits in hamstring muscle strength is common after hamstring strain. Progressive muscle loading in the direction of expected stress optimises collagen alignment, increasing the tensile strength of the muscle. Thus, strengthening the hamstrings in the direction of expected stress is crucial in order to re-achieve maximal muscle power post-injury.

Proprioceptive deficits have been related to hamstring strain injury, thus proprioceptive enhancement exercises are also introduced in order to address proprioceptive deficit lost secondary to post-injury weakness.

Hamstring muscle strains in sprinters are common and require progressive sport specific rehabilitation for successful return to sport in adequate time. The stages of the healing process, the biomechanics of sprinting and the abilities of the individual sprinter must be considered by the therapist throughout.

Function360 offers sports specific rehabilitation for many running/sprinting injuries, hamstring strains being one of them. We do not only treat our patients’ symptoms – we guide, motivate, monitor and assist our patients throughout their full rehabilitation programme, until they are able to return to their sport safely.

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