Dealing with Hamstring Injuries

As many nagging sports injuries as I’ve had over the past 34 years, you would think that, at some point, I would tire of getting hurt and cut back on the sorts or just give them up all together.

Well, since I am not ever going to stop participating in athletic events – although I have learned to cut back a little bit – I have decided to get infinitely smarter with, both, my warming up and stretching prior to competing and my post-competition routine as well.

However, I will admit that the past two summers, (2004 and 2005) are especially etched in my athletic mind because of the severe hamstring injuries I suffered each summer.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that a hamstring I injury is extremely painful and can be one of the most nagging and lingering injuries there is if not treated properly.

In 2004, I tore my right hamstring while competing in an running event in Myrtle beach, South Carolina, which, for all intents and purposes, took me nearly two months to fully recover from.

When I tore my left hamstring in the summer of ’05 (even worse than the one the year before) while playing Ultimate Frisbee near Kansas City, Missouri, I was fully exasperated with both, my uncooperative hamstrings and myself.
After undergoing extensive treatment on both hamstrings – but especially the left – I am now a master of hamstring knowledge – and of course, being the upstanding fellow that I am – I thought sharing my knowledge about the powerful tendons, would be quite useful a lot of people out there who may one day need some advice to get over the nagging injury themselves.

The term hamstring refers to any of the tendons at the rear of the human knee and they start at the bone in the buttocks and attach below the knee. Hamstring injuries are very common in people who have an imbalance in their upper leg muscle strength. When the front thigh muscles, the quadriceps, are stronger than the hamstring tendons and muscles in the back of the thigh, there is a higher risk for a hamstring injury. This disparity also makes the hamstring harder to rehabilitate after injury.

Hamstring injuries include strains and avulsions, in which portions of the muscle may be torn away. A hamstring strain is a stretch, tear, or complete rupture of one or more of the tendons in the back of the thigh. These injuries can be caused by a violent contraction of the hamstring muscles, when you suddenly increase your speed while running, for example (which is what happened to me).

Over-stretching and failure to warm up sufficiently will also likely cause a strain and once again, these strains can sometimes tend to recur even with proper rehabilitation. Scar tissue forms when they heal, making the entire tendon less flexible and more at risk for future injury. There are three degrees of strains:

A first-degree strain is simply a slight pull resulting in a sore muscle the next day. Walking or slow jogging is not inhibited. Recovery time is 1 to 2 weeks.

Second-degree strains are caused by a hard pull that you feel while you’re exercising, as in sprinting. You must stop right away. The muscle is tender and aches, and bruises develop 3 to 6 days later. Bending the knee and walking and jogging are difficult. Recovery takes 3 to 4 weeks.

Third-degree hamstring strains produce such severe pain it can cause you to collapse. Walking is impossible. Severe bruising occurs in three to four days. You might need crutches for a week or two and ecovery can take as much as 10 weeks.
At the time a strain occurs, treat it with R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression, and elevation for 10 to 30 minutes intermittently for two or three days. Wear a neoprene thigh sleeve when you return to activity and take ibuprofen or aspirin for relief of pain and inflammation. For second-and third-degree strains, seek immediate medical care.

In growing children, when a violent contraction of the hamstrings takes place, the muscle tendon won’t tear. Instead, it pulls off a portion of the bone attachment to the buttocks. This is called an avulsion injury. It is most likely to occur when the child is jumping or sprinting, as in soccer or football. The severe pain and disability will require immediate medical care for your child.
So, there you have it – everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the hamstring tendon – and maybe some things you didn’t want to know. At any rate, you’ll certainly be better off – and more knowledgeable – in the long run (no pun intended).

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