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Optimum Performance: Hamstring injuries nothing to take lightly |

Hamstring Muscles

NFL players have reported to training camp, and the 2013 football season will soon be upon us, but as inevitable as a standout rookie, so are sports-related injuries. One injury in particular has time and time again kept players off the field, and often for extended periods of time. I’m, of course, referring to the hamstring injury, which has become one of the more feared injuries among professional athletes today.

The hamstring, located on the backside of the leg, is made up of three synergistic — parts working together — muscles that create movement by causing an individual to extend the hip and flex the knee. Acting as a decelerator, the hamstring is often ignored in sports, leading to an injury that can be both mentally and physically challenging for an athlete to endure.

The hamstring injury has a reputation of keeping players on the bench much longer than expected, since the injured hamstring can be more difficult to treat, and overzealous players who return to the field too soon (often entering a type of sprinting play) could expect a re-injury rate of up to 50 percent.

This specific type of injury is categorized by three degrees of severity. The first degree can be defined by a “pulling” feeling in the back of the thigh usually during a sprint. This “pulling” often results in the hamstring to feel sore or tender the next day. The second degree of injury is a little more painful, and usually more noticeable, noticeable enough that the athlete would be required to stop all physical activity. Three to six days later this athlete could expect bruising on the injured site. Finally, the third degree of injury is so severe that walking may seem impossible, and crutches are most certainly always needed.

Recovery time is usually dependent upon on the athlete and their performance history. There are many factors to consider when deciphering a player’s recovery window. For example, factors like age, one leg having a different length than the other, and a history of previous hamstring injury should be evaluated when determining how longer a player will remain on the bench.

According to East Jefferson General Hospital orthopedic surgeon and former 16-year team physician for the New Orleans Saints Tim Finney, “recovery time from a grade one and two hamstring injury depends as much on the player’s position as it does on his genetic make up (the ability to heal from a soft tissue injury.”

In other words, some players heal faster than others. A player involved in a sprint or one who moves in cutting motions — like a wide receiver — is more likely to require a longer recovery period, while a more stagnant player, like a lineman, may heal faster.

The 2013 NFL season has yet to officially start, but already players across the board are experiencing some sort of hamstring related injury. Let’s take a look at those who have already been affected.

It was reported last Friday that Buffalo Bills’ receiver Stevie Johnson, who is coming off three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, injured his left hamstring during a red-zone drill two hours into a practice session. Needless to say, being the Bills’ only established receiver, Johnson and his ability to come back healthy will be a question mark on the Bills’ offense, since they want to run a “fast-paced, up-tempo system” under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

Let’s see if Johnson is brought back too quickly from this injury. Remember, as previously stated, up to 50 percent of hamstring injuries, if not appropriately rehabbed, can result in re-injury. With the associated build up of scar tissue (fibrotic) at the injury site, there is also a mental aspect to the injured player, as a result of a “twinge” he will feel once accelerating and decelerating through his routes upon his return.

Another team, the Baltimore Ravens, just last Monday reported that tight end Ed Dickson has a slight tear in his hamstring and will be sidelined for at least a week.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Dickson was expected to be back by the start of the regular season, however, in my mind and experience that may be wishful thinking.

This past Saturday, Saints linebacker Ray Shipman sat out the team’s scrimmage with a hamstring injury, and Wednesday the Saints’ regular-season opening opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, reported that wide receiver Julio Jones had sore hamstrings. Finally, Green Bay Packers’ cornerback Casey Hayward has not practiced because of a hamstring injury.

With so many players experiencing the effects of a hamstring-related injury, the question lies, what are the criteria for returning to the field? As I’ve said, recovery time is often specific to the player, but according to Master of Physical Therapy, Dennis Romig, “Based on the best available evidence and experience, I recommend that athletes be cleared to return to unrestricted sporting activities once full range of motion, strength, and functional abilities (ex. jumping, running, and cutting) can be performed without complaints of pain or stiffness.”

If possible, isokinetic strength testing should also be performed under both concentric and eccentric action conditions. It is said that less than a five percent bilateral deficit should exist in the ratio of eccentric hamstring strength to concentric quadriceps strength. Functional ability testing should incorporate sport-related movements specific to the athlete, with intensity and speed near maximum.

The hamstring injury should not be underestimated, for its potential for devastating an athlete’s season, much less career, if re-injury occurs. I fear that many players are convinced, or manipulated, both by their egos and those of a coaching staff, to return to the field too quickly.

What player wants to miss his season, and what coach wants his best player on the bench? However, this same ego that has shined on the football can also lead to the player’s demise, and his career can be over faster than it ever arrived if they misjudge their injury.

via Optimum Performance: Hamstring injuries nothing to take lightly |