Treating Your Own World Cup Hamstring Injury
Hamstring injuries are common in sports and activities which demand quick acceleration of the body and where the stride length is often increased greatly to try and move faster. Sprinting and football are two of the commonest sports in which hamstring tears occur. The onset of the injury is typically sudden and the athlete is very aware that something has “gone” in the back of his or her leg, limping off the track or field and keeping the knee and hip bent to minimise the stretch on the new, acute injury.
The first week after your injury is the time of acute injury and management of this is aimed at limiting the inflammation, pain and swelling involved with a muscle or muscle-tendon injury. Firstly protect your injury by keeping your knee bent as you walk and limiting your activity as much as you can, your muscle needs to rest for a few days to let the pain and the inflammatory process settle. So taking painkillers and resting to a degree is acceptable. If possible, wrap a crepe bandage firmly around the injury site as soon as possible after the injury to limit swelling and apply ice or cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes, taking care that your skin does not overcool.
It is useful to continue the bandage compression for several days without making it too tight so it interferes with circulation, particularly at night. Once the pain has begun to settle you can start to gently contract the hamstrings and the best way here is to lie on the front and gently bend the knee up and down. This avoids any possibility of stretch which might be harmful and painful. Routine practice of this exercises the muscle without undue stresses. Gradually as the pain settles you should practice a more and more normal gait, aiming for even timing of both steps rather than a rush to get back on the good leg.
At around two weeks or so from injury, start gentle stretches such as lying on the back, holding behind the knee with both hands and gently straightening and bending the knee. Graded muscle exercises should be practised and progressed to gently jogging and faster running when possible. Sprinting should not be performed until full extensibility of the muscle has been regained and there is no pain with maximum contraction.
Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth