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  • Writer's pictureAdam Whatley

How do hamstring injuries & tears occur? Dynamic Osteopaths Solihull

The hamstring muscles extend over both the hip and knee joints, influencing both joint movement.

Eccentric contraction  - This is when the hamstrings lengthen as they contract, other words to de-exenterate movement. An example is to slow down the leg in preparation for foot hitting the ground (foot strike). 

Hamstring injuries are most likely to occur when the hamstring is going through this eccentric loading phase and lengthened, during eccentric contraction.

Where Do Hamstring Injuries Occur? An acute injury to a hamstring muscle can occur anywhere, but most commonly it occurs in the middle of the muscle, where the tendon and muscle tissues intersect, otherwise known as the musculotendinous junction. 

Less common injuries is when hamstring tendon breaks away from the bone in various stages. These injuries are called hamstring avulsions and typically occur at the top of the hamstring (proximal hamstring). Hamstring injuries for runners most commonly occur in the mid-thigh. Tears often present following repeated micro trauma, that then followed muscle strains (pulled muscle). This of a pulled muscle as a precursor to a tear. Hamstring injuries typically occur when the leg extends forward and the foot prepares to hit the ground (heel strike). This is when the hamstring is contracting eccentrically (loading) to try and slow the body down. Hamstring avulsion injuries

In high flexibility sports such as gymnastics, the hamstrings require high amounts of stretching. Here, hamstring injuries are more common at the proximal hamstring, where it connects with the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone). These injuries often require a longer, more extensive recovery period, sometimes taking 3 to 6 months before the patient is able to return to full activity, here hamstring rehabilitation is crucial.

Dueing avulsion hamstring injury part of the hamstring tendon pulls away from the bony attachment point. 

Risk factors to hamstring injuries 

The risk factors for hamstring injuries include: 

Previous hamstring injury (People who have suffered a hamstring injury in the past are at the greatest risk of future hamstring injuries, due to scar tissue).

  • Hamstring Tendinopathy (Muscle weakness and fatigue. If a muscle is weak or fatigued it can alter a person’s biomechanics and may increase risk of injury).

  • Reduced flexibility (Making a muscle less capable of repeated loading). 

  • Inadequate warm-up (Muscles that have been warmed up will be more flexible and possibly less likely to be injured). 

  • Muscle imbalance between the hamstrings and quadriceps (Muscle groups must work together. The risk of injury is increased if one muscle group is weaker than the other).

  • Dehydration (When someone is dehydrated, the muscles can be more prone to cramping and therefore more prone to injury). 

  • Existing lower limb injury (If the body is compensating for another lower-limb injury).

  • Reduced pelvic control

  • Sacroiliac and lumbar spine restriction

3 easy to perform prevention stretches

If your hamstrings are tight, it limits motion in your pelvis, which can lead to injuries. 

A regular routine of hamstring stretches can gradually restore mobility to these muscles, making them less prone to injury. It takes time and effort to loosen tight muscles, so you should commit to doing one or more hamstring stretches at least twice a day over the long term to get the best results. When you’re doing these stretches, make sure to keep breathing and don’t bounce. Instead, gently stretch in a single movement and hold this. To help prevent muscle tearing, don’t push yourself to the point of discomfort or pain. If your hamstrings are tight, start with the gentle exercises, then move on to the intermediate exercises as your flexibility increases. 

Mild hamstring stretch

Seated chair stretch - Sit at the front edge of the chair and straighten one leg in front of you, with your heel of the ground and your toes pointed at the ceiling. Then keep your back straight and lean forward over the outstretched leg. You should feel the stretch in the back of your thighs. To increase the stretch, prop your heel on a stool or second chair rather than the floor. The higher you elevate your foot, the deeper the stretch. Intermediate hamstring stretches 

Towel hamstring stretch - Lie on the floor with your left knee bent and your left foot flat on the floor. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, lift the straight right leg slowly upward. If your hamstrings are tight, try wrapping a belt or exercise band around your right instep and hold onto the ends, using it to help you lift your leg. When you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the right thigh, hold for at least 15 seconds, then lower the leg to the floor. Repeat 3 times per side, alternating your legs. 

If you do injure your hamstring muscles, these stretches can also help you through the recovery process. However, any aggressive stretching in the early part of recovery should be avoided, so that the muscles have a chance to heal and create scar tissue. Also, if you experience a hamstring injury and make stretches part of your routine as you recover, this may be helpful in avoiding a reinjury 

The majority of hamstring injuries recover well with the correct advice. However, in some other cases you made need further hands on treatment, advice and corrective exercise rehabilitation. Here at Dynamic Osteopaths  we can provide this for you with high amounts of experience in this field.

Get in touch to find out more

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