Hamstring injury treatment and hamstring stretching exercises
Brad Walker explains why hamstring injuries are so common and what you can do to prevent them.
Effective hamstring injury treatment and hamstring stretching exercises are vital to the overall health and condition of the hamstring muscles. The hamstring muscles are very susceptible to tears, strains and other common sporting injuries.
Those athletes particularly vulnerable are competitors involved in sports that require a high degree of speed, power and agility. Sports such as Track and Field (especially the sprinting events) and other sports such as soccer, basketball, tennis and football have more than their fair share of hamstring injuries.
Let us start by having a quick look at the particular muscles that make up the hamstrings and where exactly they are located. We will then move onto some common causes of hamstring injuries and finally look at some preventative measures and treatments.
The hamstring group of muscles, located at the back of the upper leg, are a group of three separate muscles. The top of these muscles is attached to the lower part of the pelvis and the bottom of the hamstring muscles is attached to the lower leg bone just below the knee joint. The technical or anatomical names for the three hamstring muscles are semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. The picture to the right shows the muscles located at the rear of the upper right leg. The three specific hamstring muscles can be seen in the picture, by looking for the anatomical names located halfway down the right-hand side
Now that we know exactly what and where the hamstrings are let us look at some of the most common causes of hamstring injuries.
By far the most common cause of hamstring injuries originates from an imbalance between the quadriceps muscles (located at the front of the upper leg) and the hamstring muscles. The quadriceps is a large, strong group of muscles, which help to extend the leg. These muscles can become so strong that they overpower the hamstrings, putting a massive amount of tension on the hamstring muscles. Combine strong quadriceps with weak hamstrings, and you have a hamstring injury waiting to happen.
Other factors that contribute to hamstring injuries are a lack of flexibility and poor strength of the hamstring muscles. Also, when the hamstrings become fatigued or tired, they are more susceptible to injuries.
The best preventative measures involve a consistent program of both stretching and strengthening exercises. Increased flexibility will contribute to the ability of the hamstring muscles to resist strains and injury.
Warming up correctly will also contribute to reducing the likelihood of a hamstring injury, and do not just stretch before you exercise. Make sure you stretch both before and after any physical activity. Dedicate time to your flexibility, this will not only help you avoid injury, but it will also make you a better athlete.
If you do happen to suffer from a hamstring injury, correct first aid principles must be applied immediately. The RICER regime explains the correct treatment for all muscle strain injuries. RICER stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and then obtaining a Referral from a qualified sports doctor or physiotherapist. So, as soon as a hamstring injury occurs, rest the injured limb, apply ice to the affected area, apply a compression bandage and elevate the limb if possible. This treatment needs to continue for at least 48 to 72 hours. This is the most critical time for the injured area, and correct treatment now can mean the difference between an annoying injury and a permanent, re-occurring, debilitating injury.
After the first 72 hours, obtain a referral from a qualified professional and start a comprehensive rehabilitation program. This should include a great deal of strength and stretching exercises, as well as other rehabilitation activities such as massage and ultra-sound.
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About the Author
Brad Walker is a prominent Australian sports trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. Brad is a Health Science graduate of the University of New England and has postgraduate accreditations in athletics, swimming and triathlon coaching. He also works with elite level and world champion athletes and lectures for Sports Medicine Australia on injury prevention.