Hamstring strains are the most common injury in sports. Numbers estimate they account for up to 25% of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries. In soccer in particular, in a single season about half of all injuries that occurred were deemed to be hamstring strains.Data from the United States’ National Collegiate Athletic Association reveals that the overall rate of hamstring injury was twice as high during competitions and training season. This type of injury involves a tear in one or more of the leg’s hamstring muscles and they can range from mild to extremely severe cases where the muscle is completely torn.
Hamstring strain are associated with long rehabilitation periods and a risk of over 30% of recurrence. Because of this high relapse rate, treatment pathways usually go beyond just getting rid of the symptoms. Patients who have suffered from this require a management and prevention plan. A therapist aims to do exactly that.
The main goal of physiotherapy here is to restore the person’s functions, help them return to performing the sport and provide support to minimize the risk of relapsing. Initially, the patient undergoes a full examination during which the severity of the case is graded. In more complex cases, MRI and ultrasound scans are used to detect the exact location and extent of the strain.
Immediate treatment aims to stop the bleeding, prevent scarring and reduce muscle tissue damage. A therapist will recommend cold compression, elevation, rest and immobilization in the primary phase of the treatment. It has been observed that following such injuries affect athletes in different ways depending on the sport they practice. Runners for instance require a break of 16 weeks, soccer players can do with as little as 14 days while dancers may need up to 50 weeks.
Following this period, an active rehabilitation plan can be put in place. Physiotherapists recommend kicking this off as soon as possible to ensure optimal results. In early stages, gentle resistance exercises and a stretching program are vital in avoiding the scarring of tissue which occurs during healing.
Due to the fact that physiotherapy is such a flexible practice, treatment plans are customized to meet individual needs and may include any of the following: deep tissue massage, hot or cold therapy, dry needling, acupuncture, progressive strengthening and stretching exercises.
The final but ongoing stage of hamstring strain injuries involves a post-treatment management plan during which the patient is in control of their own performance. By creating a tailored training schedule that should be followed at home or before performing upon return, athletes can achieve better results for longer periods of time and prevent a future injury. This can mean anything from proper warming up exercises to regular physiotherapy visits that now shift from rehabilitating to strengthening and improving muscle function. Because the patient’s state of mind plays an equally important role in the process, therapists will ensure the patient is supported, informed and motivated throughout the whole process.