We’ve all seen our favourite player pull up short when sprinting for the footy or clutching at their leg when winding up for a big drop punt from outside 50m. The player grabs the back of the thigh and requires assistance to get off the ground and receive treatment.
NOT ANOTHER HAMSTRING!!!
And then there was Michael Clarke….the Australian cricket captain who just made his return to the Australian team for the current world cup in Australia/New Zealand following a hamstring surgical repair.
So what are the hamstring muscles and why is there a different treatment option and timeframe for everyone?
Unfortunately, hamstring injuries occur in all age groups and are quite common, especially AFL. They strike athletes of all sorts, from tennis players to track sprinters to footballers (soccer, Australian-rules, and American). This group of three muscles (biceps femoris, semitendonosis and semimembranosis) work to bend the knee and extend the hip. They function quite a bit with any locomotion. The strain/pull/tear occurs when the muscles are suddenly stretched when sprinting and lunging as the knee straightens and hip flexes. Usually, the Hamstring muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue becomes torn.
The introduction of high quality MRI scans over the last few years has allowed for much more information to be gathered on specific injuries. The common hamstring injury often involve the muscolotendinous junction (where the tendon overlaps with the muscle). These are the 'typical', 3-4 week injuries. However this time frame can be affected by a number of different factors:
Location of injury (muscle involved and where on the muscle the tear is)
Size of tear
Age of patient
When was the patient able to walk pain free
Initial management of the injury
Hamstring injury history
So why did Clarke need surgery when other hamstring issues haven’t?
Separate to this, the hamstring tendon that attaches to the pelvis can be torn or ruptured. This isn't good! These normally need surgery as the recurrence rate is thought to be lower. Nick Reiwoldt, Josh Gibson and Daniel Kerr are a few of the AFL players who have suffered something similar. The recovery for this hamstring injury is 12-16weeks!
So in short, a good assessment of the hamstring injury from your sports doc, physio and maybe even an MRI is crucial and making sure the initial management is top notch. This will increase your chance of good recovery and prevention of the same injury in the future.
Until the next injury!
Josh Banky is a Physiotherapist. He works at Lifecare Prahran Sports Medicine on Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Friday. The clinic is close to suburbs including Malvern, South Yarra, Richmond, Caulfield and Hawthorn, and has early and late appointments for all your Sports Medicine and Sports Physiotherapy needs. You can find more on Josh on our practitioners page.