HAMSTRING TEARS IN RUNNERS AND SOCCER PLAYERS
Hamstring injuries are common in field sports like soccer within the Sutherland Shire and Helensburgh regions, or more specifically over 35 F grade soccer. The hamstrings are an incredibly powerful muscle group however generally don’t get stronger without a specific and target strength and conditioning program. With our day to day lives we use our quadriceps a lot and they can maintain reasonable strength through normal activities of daily living. The hamstrings on the other hand don’t. The problem is majority of us have relatively sedentary jobs but then we redline our engines on the field on the weekend and hence, often tear our hamstrings. There are several considerations to help limit hamstring tears and we will discuss them in this article.
1. HYDRATION + ELECTROLYTES
One of the relevant factors that is often not discussed is hydration and electrolytes. Depletion of potassium, calcium and magnesium particularly when coupled with dehydrations leads to muscle cramps on the field or when running. The issue is muscles stretch and contract rapidly during activity but this is a highly co-ordinated orchestra. If a muscle contracts under cramp, during a phase when it needs to be lengthening this sudden rapid spike in load can lead to a tear.
2. STRENGHTH + CONDITIONING
Muscles are made up of long fibres, an illustration I use, is to think of a muscle as a group of raw uncooked spaghetti. Each piece of spaghetti represents of single muscle fibre. The reason a muscle becomes bigger or hypertrophies with strength training is each fibre becomes thicker. So it stands reason that the thicker each strand the less likely it is to break. The has been a lot of research in this area and they program below is based off that research.
3. WARM-UP + STRETCHING
Stretching before activity has repetitively been shown to have no impact in reducing injury, warming up on the other hand has. The idea here is to make sure you are sweating before you start going gun’s blazers. Muscle tissue is like many other materials, organic or otherwise, they become more pliant when heated. Markedly reducing the likely hood of tearing.
An important note here is that long term stretching and releasing using a foam roller can lengthen muscle tissue over time, which in turn means it should come under less tensile load during activity and possibly assist in reducing likelihood of a tear.
It is our hope that following these 3 specific factors will dramatically reducing the incidence of muscle tears but also keep you running or on the field more without injury.
Now let’s discuss what to do if you do happen to tear your hamstring. Firstly its highly recommended not to try and push on. I guess the next question you might ask is well then how do I know if I have torn a muscle. This is a little difficult to answer… when the muscle tears you know about it. When someone comes into clinic and says “I think I tore my hamstring”, 99.9% of the time they’re spot on. The difficulty comes just prior to the tear when you feel “tight” in the muscle. This is more challenging because in my experience more often than not the muscle will give warnings signs suggesting its not in the best nick. However sometimes it will do this, you’ll play on or run on, getting through the event and recover that night without any issue. Other times you’ll feel tight in that particular area but push on and 5 minutes later your on the ground looking for the same gunman than shot JFK.
1. BOOK IN TO SEE YOUR PHYSIO
It’s important to see your Physio sooner rather than later. If consulted early your Physio can do a number of things initially to reduce the pain and get you moving well and most importantly advise you what to do in order to endorse fast recovery.
2. TAPE + STABILISE
A Physio can tape/stablise the area quickly in order to rapidly augment recovery and limit the tear progressing further. Taping the hamstring provides much better compression and literally squashes the fibres closer together. The further the distance the fibres need to bridge - the slower the process will be, if we can bring the torn fibres closer together healing will be much more rapid.
3. COLD + COMPRESSION
Cold compression therapy is recommended initially 20 mins on 20 mins for an hour. This is a rough guide, simply compressing and icing the area quickly is more important than the particular time frame. We utilise an excellent piece of equipment that wraps around your entire leg while freezing water is cycled through the wrap with intermittent pressure. The goal here is to try and reduce the metabolic demand of the tissue with the cold, similar to what Walt Disney is trying to do in some ice block facility somewhere for the rich and famous to be brought back to life in the year 3000. With any muscle tear blood vessels are also torn and these vessels needed to deliver blood to other parts, this delivery has now been disrupted so the supplying tissue will die - extending the damaged tissue margins of the initially tear. So by reducing the metabolic demand or need for blood acutely, we can reduce the injury extending.
4. STRETCHING (OR NOT STRETCHING)
Initially we want to avoid this. Often after a tear the muscle spasms in order to try and stabilise the tear and pull the tear closed. Because this makes the area feel very tight, the feeling is that you want to stretch. However this will only act to pull the torn fibres further apart during a time we want to pull them closer together.
As previously mentioned muscle tears are common but hopefully some of these suggestions can dramatically help in reducing their incidence.
Aevum Physiotherapy - 85443231