Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Don't let your hamstring go ping !
How many times have we seen a football player or sprinter pulling up suddenly grasping the back of their leg and pulling up ?
Are hamstring tears serious injuries ?
This injury is the curse of the fast twitch athlete and at the other end of the spectrum the masters athlete who is back to relive the glory days of old. It can be a complex and fustrating problem to rehab and requires attention to detail with examination and constructing an effective rehab program.
Here is one of the most famous , (and heartbreaking), hammy tears at the 1992 olympics;
Do hamstring tears heal ?
One of the biggest risk factors in sustaining a hamstring tear is not rehabbing the initial one properly. It can be a sneaky little injury as quite often we can get back to jogging or mid pace running with no pain very quickly , less than 3 weeks. This is uusally an indicator to the individual that all is well and they can get back to full on activity again.
However if it hasn’t been tested at maximum speed in match conditions we really are living in hope. In fact in Elite sprinters have shown that the strength of the hamstring is as follows;
70% at 2 weeks post injury
85% at 3 weeks post injury
90% at 6 weeks post injury
100% at up to 16 weeks !!!!
Thats right it can take up to 16 weeks to get the strength and function of the hamstrings back to 100%.
Anatomy of a hamstring
The hamstrings refer to three separate muscles located in the back of the thigh;
Biceps femoris (which consists of two components, a long head and a short head)
There are numerous theories on how this muscle group derived its name, but it appears to originate from the early Germanic language as well as the butchery trade. The pigs were hung from these strong tendons, hence the reference to ‘ham’ (meaning ‘crooked’ and thus referring to the knee, the crooked part of the leg) and ‘string’ (referring to the string-like appearance of the tendons).
From their proximal insertions at the ischial tuberosityin the pelvis, SM, ST they pass posterior to the hip and knee joints, while BFsh is monoarticular, crossing only the knee joint.
Why do hamstring tears occur and who is most at risk
The following is a list of factors that are influential in hamstring injuries:
Number 1 is a previous hamstring injury.Atheletes have been found to be 2-6 more at risk of reinjuring their hamstring up to 8 weeks post injury.
Individuals who have a short and eccentrically weak , (that is the muscles ability to resist lengthening under load.).
The lack of relative flexibility of the hamstrings and the opposing muscle groups to the hamstring ,quadriceps and hip flexors are potential risk factors.
Inadequate rehab of previous hamstring tears or history of hamstring injury.
Lack of or too much training at maximal speed is now thought to be a potential contributing factor. Its getting the dose right that is key, like Goldilocks not too much , not too little its got to be just right !
Age , the older the individual the more at risk they are of a hamstring tear. Hello Masters sport.
Weight, a BMI > 25 in individuals engaing in explosive / speed based activities are at gretare risk.
Fatigue towards the end of training or a match.
Top 5 hamstring exercises
Good news is that there are really awesome return to play protocols and tests to determine readiness to return to sport. We've put together some of the best hamstring strengthening exercises to get back on the pitch or track .
In ascending order of difficulty
Early stage isometric hamstring work
4 sets x 5 reps x 10-20 sec holds
The hex bar offers the entry level of this variation, but is a great lower leg strength builder. Its not just about the hamstring.
Try 4-5 Sets x 8 - 12 reps, 60 sec rest
Single leg Deadlifts
On stable or unstable surfaces
I recommend doing reps of 8 , with 2 sets at 2-3 different knee angles.
The nordic hamstring exercise
Sets of 8 are all that are needed. Not for the faint hearted , but also not the be all and end all.
The hamstring leg slide.
This exercise has one of the highest muscle activity and fibre recruitment , and boy does it hit the mark
Add some of these to your routine and prevent the hamstring from going ham..ping !
Yup i really did just do that !