Injuries to the hamstring and calf muscles are common amongst athletes in sports which involve repetitive kicking, sprinting and jumping. Re-injury of these muscles is also an issue affecting many athletes long term, with roughly 30% of athletes suffering a re-injury to the hamstring, and 63% to the achilles within 2 years after initial injury. As such, risk factors and prevention strategies are essential for coaches, trainers and athletes.
The hamstrings and calves play a major role in walking, running, cutting and jumping. Injury to these muscles can include a strain, partial tear or full rupture. Injuries can occur acutely following an overstretch or trauma to the muscle (i.e., being kicked to the back of the leg), or can be chronic as a result of repetitive irritation.
- Repetitive overuse;
- Training errors;
- Abnormal biomechanics;
- Muscle imbalances;
- Previous injuries;
- Decreased flexibility or over-stretching
What can you do right now to keep yourself injury free?
Due to the high prevalence of hamstring and calf injuries, combined with a devastatingly long recovery and high probability of re-injury, research has focused greatly on risk factors and rehabilitation strategies to help prevent these injuries altogether.
Rehab your Injuries
Whether it’s your knee, ankle or hamstring, you need to address the injury sooner rather than later in order to prevent long-term problems and re-injury. Studies show that even a mild sprain/strain will put you at risk for further injury within the following year, if not properly treated. The high rate of re-occurence for many injuries can be related to improper rehabilitation, tightness related to scar tissue and altered biomechanics. Improper rehab will not only increase your chance of a re-occurence of the same injury, but it can also lead to an injury to other muscles and joints. For example, an ankle injury will alter your biomechanics, which can affect your knee and hip, leading to injuries further up the lower extremity.
Work on your core
One main problem with most rehab programs is that they only isolate the injured muscle (i.e., hamstrings and/or calves). Research has shown that the core and pelvic musculature play a major role in injury prevention. A recent study compared a core stability program focusing on trunk stabilization and agility versus a traditional program of hamstring stretching and strengthening following a hamstring injury. Results showed that the core stability group returned to sport sooner and had a reoccurrence rate of only 7% during the year, compared to the traditional rehab group, which took longer to return to sport and had a reoccurrence rate of 70% during the year (Sherry and Best 2004).
Most hamstring and calf injuries occur later in the game when fatigue sets in. Therefore, you must ensure that your conditioning program focuses on interval speed training and endurance training to improve overall conditioning.
As with all injury prevention programs, warming up is key! Studies have shown that the FIFA 11 warm-up program has been successful in the prevention of many different injuries. Click here to learn more about the FIFA 11 program.
Strength and Conditioning
Spending some time in the gym focusing on strength and conditioning significantly decreases overall sporting injuries. Conditioning should focus on any muscle imbalances and weaknesses, as well as general and functional strengthening, speed, agility, interval training and plyometrics. Not sure where to start? Talk to one of the therapists at Sheddon Physio and they can set you up with a program.
Already Injured? What does treatment entail?
Initially one of the main focuses of treatment is decreasing the pain, which can be achieved through manual therapy, taping and bracing. Another focus is promoting healing with modalities, such as laser and ultrasound, which speed up recovery time. Exercise is also one of the best ways to promote tissue repair and decrease pain, as well as improve function and a quick return to sport following an injury. Finally, in order to get rid of the injury and prevent it from re-occurring, the cause of the injury must be addressed. Training errors, poor biomechanics and muscle imbalances need to be addressed to ensure a full and successful return to sport.
If you’re currently injured, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists, chiropractors, athletic therapists or massage therapists in order to help get you back on the field healthy and pain-free. If you’re not currently injured, the therapists at Sheddon can get you started on an injury prevention and strengthening program by working on your specific weaknesses and imbalances to help prevent any future injuries. If you’re looking for a sports medicine clinic in the Oakville and Mississauga area that has great therapists AND will get you results quickly, contact Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic at 905-849-4576.