Hamstring sprains are one of the most common injuries in Australian Rules football, and result in players missing more games because of this injury than any other. On average, 6.5 players per team will miss 3.5 weeks of football per season due to hamstring sprain, and 20% of all missed games per season are caused by hamstring sprains.
Hamstrings are generally injured during sprinting, kicking (stance leg or kicking) or overstretching when picking up the ball. Those players who have previously suffered hamstring strain are more at risk, particularly if they have returned to physical activity prematurely following injury. Age can also be a risk factor.
Acute management of a recently sustained hamstring injury (ie. 0- 3 days post injury) includes;
- Rest and compression (tubi-grip / tubi-form or skins)
- Ice 3 days post-injury: 20 min on / 2 hours off - repeat as much as possible
- Crutches should be utilised if there is any difficulty walking
- No HARM (Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage)
It is important to seek the advice of an accredited Sports Trainer, or Physiotherapist in the first 24 hours in order to assess and diagnose the extent of the injury. This way proper rehabilitation strategies can be implemented according to the degree of the strain.
The main aim is to walk pain free in the first 3 days.
Massage therapy, stretching and lower back monitoring are important in hamstring strain management following the acute phase. The chance of injury recurrence after sustaining a hamstring sprain is 30% in the first week, so it is vital that the player has a proper strengthening program developed to help reduce the likelihood of re-injury.
An example of a strengthening program may include;
- Hamstring curls
- Straight leg dead lifts
Core stability / hip strengthening
(muscles that support the hamstring)
Functional Running Program
I. Jog 2 km
II. 2km varying speed- up to 75 %
III. Speed work: 40/20/40 X 3- accelerate to 75 % over 40m/ hold for 20m/ decelerate over 40 m
IV. Speed Work: increase 90-100 %
V. Return to full training
Players should not return to the playing field if they cannot perform two to three training sessions without any pain in their hamstring.
A third of all hamstring strains will recur within twelve months, and often more severely. This is often due to inadequate rehabilitation techniques that fail to address muscular weakness and flexibility, which is why it is so important that you seek your physiotherapist's advice following hamstring strain.