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Hamstring injury prevention in soccer players

Posted on Jul. 31, 2017 ( comments)

By Brad Kuske, DO, CAQSM

As another tournament season draws to a close and we prepare for upcoming league play in the fall, we should pause to consider preventive steps that soccer players can take to avoid those darn nagging hamstring injuries.

Anyone who has pulled a hamstring midseason will agree — these injuries prove to be a real pain in the backside, literally.

Here are some tips to decrease your chances of injury:

Stretching

To stretch or not to stretch? Indeed, there has been debate for decades as to the effectiveness and overall utility of stretching before and/or after exercise.

Taking multiple studies into consideration, we can conclude that stretching is indeed important for injury prevention. Expert advice is to stretch following a training session or game and to warm up dynamically with stretching incorporated.

The old days of sitting in a circle and stretching out before training has given way to a more engaging style of warm-up.

Warm-up

If anyone loves showing up to the field and immediately cracking shots on goal, it’s me! This, however, is a dangerous and risky behavior when it comes to rates of muscular injury.

A proper warm-up that engages the muscles in a way that stretches them while moving the joints in sport-specific ways is the current recommendation. This is also called a “dynamic warm-up.”

There are a number of injury prevention programs available that can be incorporated into a typical warm-up, one of which is demonstrated in the video linked above.

We have discovered in sport science and research that it is important to prepare the body and joints prior to engaging them in full strength training to avoid unnecessary strain on the muscles, specifically at the location where the muscle becomes a tendon (before attaching to the bones).

Keeping the muscles of the hamstrings and quadriceps warm with a set of compression shorts during colder winter games is also advised.

Strengthen

Hamstring flexibility is important to injury prevention, but studies support that the strength of the hamstrings is, in fact, the most important single factor in injury prevention.

Improving hamstring strength, while giving you a competitive edge through improved speed and muscle endurance, also has a protective effect on the knee, decreasing injury rates.

The best way to strengthen the hamstrings for soccer players is through the performance of Nordic hamstring curls (also called “Russian Hamstring Curls,” a form of eccentric strengthening). 

Listen to your body

The truth is that we, as athletes, have to be in touch with our bodies and must understand the limitations and strengths that we possess. Some days your muscles will be tighter than others. Some days the weather will dictate the need for a longer and more thorough warm-up (for example, when it’s snowing).

And yet, there will be times when you will feel something tweak in that cursed region just below your buttock no matter how well you have trained, stretched and warmed up. Injuries are not completely preventable. Know when to stop and rest if you feel a muscular injury is likely to occur.

We at MultiCare Orthopedics and Sports Medicine wish you and your teammates a safe and successful season.
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