Have you always had hamstring issues? Do you get to a point where you feel great so you get back into whatever sport it is that you play but then next thing you know you go for a sprint and there it is again… that pesky hamstring injury!!
If this is you, just know that you’re not alone, this happens all the time and it’s frustrating for everyone!
So why does this happen?
You know that guy that misses most of pre-season every single year and then comes out a week before games start and tries to impress everyone by doing heaps of running and pulls his hamstring? Yeah, me too. Nobody is impressed and then that guy has to miss a bunch of weeks anyway.
Why does this happen? Is it because he’s an idiot? Well, partly, but more importantly it’s because he’s not strong enough to deal with that sudden increase in load. Muscles get stronger over time through conditioning and targeted strengthening exercises and if you continue to miss pre-season, it's obvious to see why your body (and hamstrings) might not be ready to go in that first match back. If your hamstring are not conditioned for a lot of volume (running for example) due to lack of training, then they will fatigue quickly and eventually give out. This may be in the form of a slight overstretch, a small strain or a massive tear - in any case however, it is completely preventable!
The next error we see commonly is that players come back before their rehab is 100% complete! Why do most of the rehab (80% of the job), then waste all that good work by coming back a week or two early and redo a hamstring! I'm all for getting back into things as soon as possible but sometimes people seem to jump back in as soon as the pain decreases instead of when their strength and conditioning is adequate enough.
Now is it unfair to compare the person that does nothing at all to the person that does a fair bit? Maybe. But realistically if you’ve done 0% of the work (missing a full pre-season) or 80% of your rehab, you still have a higher risk of re-injury than the person who’s done 100%. So regardless of whether you’re the 80% person or the 0% person how about we try and become the 100% person before we try and return to high levels of activity (like matches!) - it truly does make a difference!
What can you do about it?
If you want to spend more time on the field than in the clinic then lets get something straight, you’re going to have to put in the work. That means you’ve gotta keep doing your exercises even when you feel great and have no pain! Truth is, you are most vulnerable for re-injury when you first get pain free again! To keep lowering your risk of re-injury you’ve got to keep getting stronger, it really is as simple as that!
So it seems pretty simple right? Be stronger than you were before the injury and you’re in the clear right? In theory this is correct but we all know it’s not the easiest thing in the world to stay away from playing your favourite sport especially when you’re feeling pain free. But just remember if you don’t stick it out and finish off your rehab, you and I are going to become great friends because you’ll be spending more time in my room at the clinic than you will be on the field...