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How To Reduce Return To Sport Timeframes With A Hamstring Strain

How To Reduce Return To Sport Timeframes With A Hamstring Strain
How To Reduce Return To Sport Timeframes With Hamstring Strain Injuries

Hamstring Strain: A Common Sprinting Injury

Hamstring injuries are a common injury for an athlete where their sport involves sprinting. Sadly a hamstring strain is also an injury that tends to have a high recurrence rate some reports suggesting around a 16-30% recurrence rate. Most injuries to the hamstrings tend to occur in the long head of biceps femoris which is the more lateral of the hamstring muscles. Typical recover time frames are suggested to be around a 20 day average, which for the weekend warrior that means missing at least 2 or more matches. If the injury involves the common hamstring tendon it is suggested recovery time frames blow out significantly longer to around an average of 72 days to return to sport. The majority of hamstring injuries are from running fast, with some studies having estimated the cause of around 80% of hamstring strains are from this activity alone.

Predictors Of Prognosis

A couple of simple predictors of injury severity are:

  • the pain at the time of injury,
  • length of the area which is painful to touch,
  • location of area that is painful to touch
  • and pain bending forward to touch your toes.

If you have pain bending to touch your toes, significant pain at the time of injury with pain indicating a high hamstring strain starting high up near the fold of the buttocks and extending a distance into the posterior thigh sadly these are all predictors of a poor prognosis.

Start Treatment Early

It is important to start treatment early, starting early management can help reduce your time taken to return to sport. Getting advice regarding the management of your acute strain and then subsequently a rehabilitation programme with strict guidelines on your checklist for return to sport is crucial for reducing both your time out injured and any likelihood of recurrence. Any rehabilitation strengthening program for hamstring recovery following injury needs to tie in 3 sessions a week into the athletes other training commitments be it running, other cardio, weights… for the program to be successful.

Nordic Hamstring Exercise, Your Go To Hamstring Exercise

One exercise in particular has good research regarding reducing both the incidence of hamstring strains and the recurrence of hamstring strains in the population suffering repeat episodes.
The Nordic Hamstring Exercise is a partner assisted strengthening exercise for hamstrings that has been shown to decrease the incidence of hamstring strains by 60% and reduce recurrence by 80% and as a result should make up a part of most hamstring rehabilitation programs.

Return To Sport Checklist

Not only is appropriate assessment and prescription of a good sport specific rehabilitation program crucial when managing any hamstring strain acute or recurrent, the importance of timing any return to sport can not be underestimated. Some research has suggested on return to play the athlete has a 30% increased risk of recurrence up until week 14 post injury. A check list for return to play should always include a T – Test of agility involving sprinting, bending, turning, and backwards running and must be able to be performed at 100% totally pain free prior to any return to sport where fast running is involved.
A basic rule to follow which I use is if you can’t train at 100% you can not play, end of story! Game play typically encourages athletes to give the clichéd “110%” therefore any athlete holding back at training (however much) to protect their hamstring in my experience has little to no chance of lasting the match with out suffering a disappointing re-injury to their hamstring.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding hamstring strain management should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, general practitioner, sports medicine specialist or physiotherapist.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.