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Optimum Performance: The dreaded hamstring injury |

Hamstring Muscles

A hamstring strain is a debilitating leg injury. Research published in the National Strength and Conditioning Journal states that “hamstring strains are compounded by a high recurrence rate of 12 to 31 percent within the first year of a return to sport.”

If the rehabilitation program is rushed or incomplete, the injury recurrence rate can jump to 54.5 percent within two weeks of the athlete’s return to competition.

Composed of three muscles, the hamstring runs down the back of the thigh. This injury tends to occur more often in sprinting sports such as football, track, soccer and basketball. The American Journal of Sports Medicine says, “hamstring strains are a considerable cause of disability in football, with the majority of injuries occurring during the short preseason.”

Through Week 5 of the NFL season, the Saints have listed nine hamstring injury notations on three players in the weekly injury report, with linebacker Junior Galette accounting for four of those notations — coming off the list in Week 5 for the Saints’ game in Chicago.

Thirty-two NFL players on 20 teams have been plagued by this injury so far this season. The Packers lead the NFL with four players hurt.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick suffered a hamstring injury last week in Philadelphia’s 36-21 win over the Giants. Vick departed late in the second quarter and did not return. Although back at practice this week on a limited basis, Vick is still questionable for the Eagles’ game against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The causes of hamstring injuries to NFL players usually can be traced to transitioning from acceleration to deceleration.

Other causes may include hamstring muscles that are overstretched, a poor warmup prior to practice or games, pelvic misalignment, overdeveloped thigh muscles relative to hamstring strength and dehydration.

According to physical therapist Lisa Chase, Adjunct Clinical Professor at Michigan State University in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, “to help diagnose a hamstring injury, it is important to not only assess the muscle itself, but also the structures away from the injury site such as the low back and hip. A back injury such as a herniated disc can refer pain to the same area that a hamstring injury is felt. Thus, an MRI may be ordered to further assess the lumbar spine, hip and hamstring.”

According to experts such as Chase, the time to rehabilitate a hamstring injury will vary depending on the degree of the injury, taking anywhere from one to three weeks for a grade 1 tear and to three to six months for a grade 3 tear.

Effective treatments include cold laser, taping, retraining movement patterns, and manual therapy to restore the lower back and lower body joint and soft tissue restrictions.

Often times recurrent stiffness or tightness in the hamstring that does not resolve with stretching can be an early warning sign that a hamstring strain may be more at risk with sprinting activities. Seeking appropriate medical advice to evaluate for any loss of range of motion or function, swelling, warmth or pain in the hamstring muscle or the surrounding joints that does not resolve within 72 hours makes good sense.

As of Wednesday, four Saints players were held out of practices for the upcoming game in New England. Notable was strong safety Roman Harper, who has been hampered with a knee injury since Week 3.

The Patriots held two players out this week. The big question in New England is whether tight end Rob Gronkowski will be ready for the game Sunday. Gronkowski has been out since the season started with arm and back injuries. Said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Gronkowski’s status: “he practiced.”

Link: Optimum Performance: The dreaded hamstring injury |