You probably don't think about your hamstrings much unless you're an athlete, but this group of three muscles is responsible for movement when we run, walk, sit, or squat.
Who is More Prone to Hamstring Injuries?
Track and field competitors and football, tennis, and soccer players are most prone to injury and reinjury, often caused by high-speed running, jumping, kicking, and explosive movements. Weekend warriors and intramural team players are also at risk. But non-athletes can get hamstring injuries, too, with older women and young people being the most at risk.
How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries
Show your hamstrings some love by improving your flexibility and strengthening your hamstrings and core. Warm-up before you exercise, stretch pre- and post-activity and engage in eccentric strength training. Eccentric training means slowing down the process of muscle elongation when working with weights in order to challenge the muscles.
Rating Your Hamstring Injuries
Those with mild injuries may feel some pain and tenderness but can go about daily activities. Moderate cases may involve a partial muscle tear with some bruising and swelling. You may limp or have trouble walking. Severe cases include a muscle tear with pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising. You may find it difficult to walk or stand.
Recovery from a Hamstring Injury
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) may help aid in recovery. If the injury is moderate or severe, you should see a health care professional. Physical therapy or progressive rehabilitation can help you get back on your game through prescribed movement, gradually increasing the difficulty and number of exercises.
Katelyn Graczyk, an athletic trainer with the University of Utah Health, suggests two isometric exercises to get you started. These exercises help strengthen the hamstring without pain.
- Heel Digs: Heel digs are done while seated on the ground. The involved leg is bent at the knee with the heel on the ground and the other leg extended. To complete the movement, simply dig the heel of the bent leg into the ground and hold for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax. Work up to three sets of 15-20 reps per leg.
- Glute Bridge Hold: Start by lying on your back with feet flat on the ground, so your knees are bent. Raise your hips into a bridge position and hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Complete three repetitions.