We remember when Fernando Torres suffered not one but three hamstring injuries in 2008-9 and felt its impact for the remainder of his career. Torres is an example of how hamstring injuries make or break the career of footballers, especially if a footballer’s biggest strength is their speed.
Footballers are most prone to hamstring injuries due to football being a high speed and high intensity sport. It requires sudden bursts of acceleration, deceleration, running, stopping, and most importantly, changing directions. Such movements place a great deal of stress on the muscles of lower body and hamstrings which are located at the back of the thigh. Our hamstrings are responsible for making sure we can bend our knees, extend our hips and some movements most frequently used in football. When a footballer suddenly accelerates or changes direction, the hamstrings can be stretched too far, which can result in a strain or tear.
Footballers are also at increased risk of hamstring injuries due to the nature of the sport itself. Matches and training sessions often involve repetitive high-intensity activities that can increase the likelihood of muscle fatigue and overuse injuries. Furthermore, the season can be long and demanding, and players may not have sufficient time to rest and recover between matches, which can further increase the risk of injury.
Causes of hamstring injuries:
Fatigue: Fatigue can play a significant role in causing hamstring injuries in footballers. When the body becomes fatigued, the muscles lose their ability to absorb and dissipate force, making them more susceptible to injury. When players move forward rapidly, they force their hamstrings to generate the same amount of power with a shorter muscle length.
Flexibility: Tight hamstring muscles can lead to a limited range of motion, which can cause compensatory movements and put additional stress on the muscle fibres, increasing the risk of injury.
Overstretching: Overstretching the hamstring muscles without proper warm-up or preparation, especially, can cause the muscle fibers to become overstretched and vulnerable to strain or tearing.
Poor technique: Footballers who have excessively flexible hamstrings may be more likely to use improper running or jumping techniques that can put additional strain on the muscles, leading to injury.
Muscle imbalance: It is beneficial to have flexible hamstrings. But if hamstrings are more flexible than other muscles in the leg, it can create muscle imbalance. Due to this muscle imbalance, other muscles compensate for the hamstring and it can risk other muscle injuries.
Inadequate warmup: Inadequate warm-up is one of the leading causes of hamstring injuries in football players. When the muscles are not properly warmed up before exercise or competition, they are more prone to injury due to decreased flexibility and range of motion.
Previous injuries: Previous injuries affect other parts of the body, such as the ankle or knee. This can lead to compensation patterns, where other muscles must work harder to make up for weaknesses or imbalances in the injured area. This can increase the stress on the hamstrings, making them more prone to injury.
Prevention of hamstring injuries:
Some common ways to prevent hamstring injuries are:
- Adequate warmup: Make sure you warm up properly before exercising. Include dynamic stretching exercises that focus on hamstrings.
- Stretch regularly: Stretching regularly, especially the hamstrings, can help improve flexibility and prevent injury.
- Focus on hamstring strengthening: Incorporate exercises that strengthen the hamstrings, such as hamstring curls, deadlifts, and lunges.
- Use proper form: Make sure to use proper form when exercising, particularly when performing exercises that target the hamstrings. This will help avoid putting unnecessary stress on the muscles.
- Increase intensity gradually: Avoid sudden changes in intensity when exercising. Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to allow your muscles to adapt and avoid overloading the hamstrings.
- Give adequate time for recovery: Give your body adequate rest and recovery time between workouts to prevent overuse injuries.
- Wear proper footwear: Make sure to wear proper footwear that provides adequate support and cushioning during exercise.
Physically demanding practice and training sessions make hamstring injuries a common problem for sportsmen, especially footballers. Mild to moderate pain caused by such injuries can impede with daily practice and progress. Therefore, it is necessary that athletes keep a pain relief solution like Zandu Fast Relief spray handy. Made with active natural ingredients and a special Turbo Action Formula, it provides instant pain relief.
Consult your physiotherapist if the pain is extreme or the symptoms persists.