If you are an athlete or like to play like one on the weekends then you have most likely strained your hamstring a multitude of times in your life. You may have noticed a little tweak and been back at it in no time or may have noticed that the back of your leg looked like something out of a horror film 😖 and you missed weeks to months. Either way, no one wants to experience any of these. Today’s topic is the hamstring. What is a hamstring strain, how to we fix it and how to you get back at it so you can crush life the way you deserve!!!
In trying to describe a hamstring injury, I have decided not to recreate the wheel and instead stand on the shoulder of those who did such an eloquent job. Below is a paraphrased version I put together from Daniel Lorenz, DPT and his Paper ” The Role and Implementation of Eccentric Training in Athletic Rehabilitation: Tendinopathy, Hamstring Strains, and ACL Reconstruction”
Hamstring strains are among the most common injuries sustained by athletes. Hamstring muscle strains are currently the most common injury in professional soccer and they account for 30% of injuries in track and field sprinters. They are common in sports that require maximum sprinting, kicking, acceleration, and change of direction. The average amount of time lost from competition and training is 3 weeks Furthermore, athletes must deal with persistent symptoms and a likelihood of re-injury, found to be present in anywhere from 12-31% of those who sustain a hamstring strain. The highest risk of recurrence is within the first two weeks of returning to the sport.
Muscle strain injuries are thought to occur when muscles are actively lengthened to greater than resting lengths. The combination of rapid eccentric contraction with active muscle contraction elsewhere in the musculotendinous unit can produce mechanical strain leading to muscle injury. In ball sports, hamstring injury tends to occur when turning sharply or cutting, whereas in sprinting the injury occurs while running at full speed without a change of direction. Hamstrings have to contract rapidly to generate a large amount of power. The greater muscle strength imbalance between eccentric hamstring and concentric quadriceps strength has also been observed in later stages of match play or with fatigue.
So now that we know that we need to strengthen the eccentric contraction phase of the hamstring, a bit of helpful info before we get started. During voluntary contraction of a muscle, the speed of contraction and ability to exert tension are inversely related. The faster a muscle contracts concentrically, the lower the tension it is able to generate. Tension in muscle fibers when lengthening is considerably greater than when muscle fibers are shortening. Studies have shown that when a muscle is eccentrically lengthened, the energy requirement falls substantially in comparison to concentric. So essentially we can conclude that eccentric exercise as compared to concentric has been shown to require less muscle activity, note fewer muscle fibers required and requires less oxygen—all in all more efficient.
Ok, now the fun part. Performing eccentric contractions of the hamstring can vary from complex to simplistic, they can be done alone or with a buddy and they can be fun or humiliating. Below are the two most functional and simplistic to start with so you can start kicking butt and get back to it. Please seek the help of a local Physician (DC, PT, MD) before you partake in any new rehab techniques if you have any caution or concern.
Yours in health
Dr. Jordan Hart Kaplan