Hamstrings – an injury hotspot
It happens to all of us at some point – we are working out, we are reaching for something, we step awkwardly or we simply trip. Whatever it is, the subsequent injury can be annoying, frustrating and downright debilitating.
The field of injury prevention and management is huge, so today’s focus is upon the hamstring, with some words of advice from Peter Langford, an Australian sports injury specialist.
The problem with hamstrings
“Hamstring injuries are a common complaint for athletes. They can be very painful, quite debilitating and hard to fix properly. Once you have had a hamstring strain then it increases the likelihood that you will have another one at some point.
The Mayo Clinic has this advice to deal with hamstring injuries: “Self-care measures such as rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medications are often all you need to relieve the pain and swelling associated with a hamstring injury. Rarely, surgery may be needed to repair a hamstring muscle or tendon”
However, Langford says there are ways to avoid injury in the first place. “Hamstring stretches are often done wrong. Bending over to try and touch your toes or put your head on your knee will not necessarily stretch the muscle properly. The stretch needs to be felt in the belly of the muscle, that is, the back of your thigh
“If you feel the stretch behind your knee then it is likely that all you are doing is putting tension on the nerves in your leg and not through the muscle.“So obviously the best thing you can do for a hamstring injury is avoid one in the first place. The good news is there is a simple exercise that has been found to significantly reduce the risk of hamstring injury.”
The Nordic answer
Langford’s advice to reduce the risk of hamstring problems is to regularly perform the Nordic Hamstring stretch, a movement that has been proven in a number of studies to significantly reduce hamstring injuries in athletes. The key to making this exercise successful is to do it consistently – at least three times a week.
“Just like any training, if you do not stick with the programme then you will miss out on the benefits.
A number of high quality studies have now been performed using the Nordic Hamstring exercise. One of the best was a Danish study using almost 1000 athletes. The outcome of this study was significant. They were able to cut the incidence of hamstring injuries in their athlete population by 65 per cent.”
The exercise programme used in this research ran for 10 weeks, followed by weekly “maintenance” sessions. So just doing the exercise now and then for a couple of weeks will be a waste of your time. Incorporate it into your regular exercise routine.
How to perform the Nordic Hamstring exercise:
Kneeling down with a partner behind you holding firmly around your ankles to keep you stable throughout the movement
Stay up tall and brace your core muscles so that your trunk does not bend during the movement
Your arms can remain by your side
Gradually lean forward, keeping your trunk straight.
As your weight comes forward you should feel your hamstrings start working hard
Continue to lean into the movement very slowly, using your hamstrings to control the movement
When you reach a point where your hamstrings can no longer control your movement, allow yourself to drop to the floor.
Use your hands to catch your descent onto the floor and you should end up in a “push up” type position.
Work your way back up to the start position and repeat.
Do this five to ten times.