Sports rehabilitation for hamstrings strains is very common especially among athletes that play soccer, basketball, baseball and football. The definition of a hamstring strain can be described as a muscle tear (partial or complete). Grade 1 is mild and grade 3 is usually complete. Complete hamstring tears are called avulsion injuries.
Hamstring strains are caused by (1) being stretched beyond its limits or overload (2) muscle tightness (3) muscle fatigue (4) muscle imbalance and (5) hamstring weakness.
The symptoms of this injury is a sharp pain posterior thigh and inability to bear weight properly, severe hematoma and severe weakness. Here we will explore the ways that physical therapists treat hamstring strains as well as preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of incurring these injuries.
The early phase of sports rehabilitation for a hamstring strain is focused upon diagnosing the extent of the injury and generating a treatment plan for the patient. The treatment schedule depends upon the severity of the injury.
For the more common mild strain, the physical therapist will start by implementing (RICE) Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation to reduce swelling and pain. The therapist will use electrical stimulation to reduce scar tissue formation, ultrasound to soothe the inflamed fibers and cold laser to speed healing. Mild stretching is performed by the therapist.
Many times during this phase the doctor may want to immobilize the hamstring in a splint to help in healing. This phase can last from one to two weeks.
Once the physical therapist determines that the patient is ready and able to begin the sports rehabilitation for the hamstring, they will outline an aggressive weight training, balance, and stretching regimen.
The weight training will mostly rely on rebuilding the injured muscle as well as making it stronger than before in order to prevent recurrence. This will typically include leg presses, stationary bikes, knee extension equipment and resistive leg raises. The goals of this is to strengthen complementary muscle groups.
The balance exercises are used to gauge the recovery and test the muscle groups to ensure that the leg is ready for a proper weight bearing. These exercises require the individual to perform tasks while only using the leg that has sustained the injury.
This phase of sports rehabilitation focuses on advanced stretching the involved hamstring in order to regain the full flexion of the leg. Aggressive strengthening must be continued in this phase. By stretching the leg with help from a physical therapist, the chances of re-injuring the same site are drastically reduced. The typical recovery for a mild hamstring strain is approximately 3-4 weeks. The athlete will now be able to strengthen and stretch the hamstring on their own, barring any setbacks.
Physical therapists are not only a source of specialized training, they are well-versed in injury prevention methods. As any sports rehabilitation professional will attest, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.
To prevent hamstring strains the first thing that an athlete must do is to discover and define the limits of their body. Pushing beyond the limit too frequently will result in injuries, especially to a weight-bearing muscle group such as the hamstring. Another way to prevent hamstring strain is by performing a proper warm-up routine that will prepare the muscle for rigorous exercise. It is the sudden bursts of activity that often cause injuries.
By being aware of these simple prevention tips, you can save yourself from missing valuable playing time.