3 Steps to Hamstring Injury Prevention

Sports Myotherapy is the evidence based assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries. Working with the client to assess, prevent and rehabilitate any injuries they may face during their chosen sport. This includes a range of postural and movement assessment, soft tissue treatment (massage, dry needling and cupping) and corrective exercises (stretching and accessory movements).

I have been working with AFL players for the previous 6 years, over that time I have seen a large amount of hamstring injuries. Hamstring injuries are common across most sports, however in football 29% of all injuries are hamstring related due to the fast sprints often required throughout play. Other high intensity running sports such as sprinting, soccer, rugby and tennis are also exposed to the risk of hamstring injuries.

1: Ensure Whole Posterior Chain is Mobile:

This includes lumbar spine, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Stretching out through these structures will allow for better lengthening through the hamstrings when in motion. The use of foam rollers are great for easing muscle tension and increasing blood flow.

A list of stretches is:

  • Lumbar rotation stretch
    • Lying flat on back with arms out wide, bend knees up and roll them side to side.
    • Lying on stomach with arms out wide, bring one leg back over the opposite leg.
  • Lumbar flexion stretch
    • Lying flat on back, bring knees up the chest and gentle pull closer with hands.
  • Lumbar side flexion
    • Kneel on one knee and have the front let at a 90/90 position, bring arms up overhead and lean to the opposite side of the knee on the ground. Alternate sides.
  • Glute stretch (added foam roller release)
    • Seated on the floor with legs slightly bent up, bring one foot up and place it on the opposite knee (notice that you may roll back slightly). Support the stretch by placing hands around the leg not being stretched. Let the knee of the leg being stretched relax out to the side. Alternate sides.
    • Adding a foam roller to this for extra release of the muscle.
  • Hip flexor stretch
    • Kneel on one leg and slightly push hips forward to feel a stretch.
    • In a push-up position, bring one foot up next to the same side hand and hold for a few seconds before alternating sides.

2: Do Neural Glides:

This will improve neuromuscular control through the hamstrings and the hip flexors.

A tight posterior neural change can lead to mis-firing of the hamstring muscles. A neural glide can be done as a slump stretch.

Slump stretch:

  • Sit on edge of chair/bench (high up enough that feet are off the ground)
  • Relax hands just behind back
  • Slump all the way down (chin to chest)
  • Flex at the ankle and slowly straighten out the leg to the point of stretch and then release
  • Alternate legs 20-30 times on each side.

3: Eccentric Hamstring Loading:

This includes exercises that target lengthening the muscle whilst increases the strength.

These exercises will strengthen the muscle when it is at full length allowing for more stable movement patterns.

Exercises:

  • Slow leg extensions
    • Using a resistance band, put it around the leg of a chair and then around the ankle. Sit on the chair and slowly extend knee fully. Repeat for a set of 10 then alternate sides. Repeat 3 times.
  • Body bridges
    • Laying on the ground, place feet up onto a bench/chair. Ensure leg is straight once in an extended position. Take one foot off the bench and lift hips up to create a straight line from head to toe. Repeat for a set of 10 and then alternate legs.
  • Swissball hamstring curls
    • With a swissball, lay flat on back with legs bent up onto the ball. Lift up the hips slightly and slowly roll the ball in and out with feet for 10 repetitions. Repeat 2 times.
  • Romanian deadlifts
    • Using a light barbell (or resistance band and dowel), hold onto the bar at a comfortable hip height. Keeping the legs straight, slowly lower the bar down the shins, hinging at the hip. Come back up slowly. Repeat for 12 repetitions for 2 sets.
  • Nordic curls
    • Kneeling on a mat (both legs), sitting up tall, slowly lower torso down towards the ground. Ensure to catch yourself before you collapse. Repeat for a set of 5 before resting. Repeat 3 times.

Kirby Bohan, Sports Myotherapist.

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