The Hamstring Injury, Complex Indeed - July 5, 2013
As the summer heat is in full force, so are the injuries affecting Wimbledon. As of June 28, 12 players had pulled out of the world’s oldest tennis tournament, most notably Michael Llorda dropping out of his singles match with a hamstring injury.
The big questions surrounding hamstring injuries are why they take so long to heal and why they tend to reoccur.
The hamstring consists of three different muscles: the large biceps femoris and the smaller semimembranosus and semitendinosus. They work as a group to extend the hip and flex the knee. They also counteract the quadriceps muscles, helping with deceleration of the knee with knee extension.
The biceps femoris is more frequently injured because of its makeup, comprising a long head and a short head. The long head acts on the hip joint and the short head connects to the femur, affecting the mechanics at the knee. Because of this multi-functional purpose, it is essential that activation occur in the proper sequence.
Failing this, the hamstrings are pre-disposed to injury – mostly the result of extending the hip and flexing the knee during quick movements and of changing direction, such as with tennis.
Why hamstring injuries take longer to heal also is a function of these muscles engaging at the knee and hip. These muscles are activated constantly during sports and daily activities (such as walking and transfers), which does not allow proper time for rest and healing.
Preventing injuries obviously is a big focus of athletes, athletic trainers and physical therapists. Proper strengthening of the muscles is key: working on motor control, training involving sport-specific movements, and stretching of the muscles prior to and after workout.
Exercises including single leg balance, squatting and quick movement drills – such as figure eight, box drills and line drills – will help to address motor control and coordination.