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The summer is ending…we get in our final beach sessions of the year and then it’s back to school. Many students avoid proper training in the summer months and then are thrust into rigorous practice and game schedules. Because of this sudden change in volume and intensity of exercise, numerous injuries result, some more common then others.
Fall sports such as football and soccer start at the end of August and many high school athletes find that this change in exercise routine results in sprains and strains. Hamstring strains are common in high school athletes and can be very painful, resulting in time lost on the field.
A hamstring strain is an excessive stretch or tearing of muscle fibers and related tissues. Hamstring strains can occur at one of the attachment sites or at any point along the length of the muscle. They are classified as either1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree depending on the severity.
Hamstring injuries are common problems that may result in significant loss of on-field time for many athletes because these injuries tend to heal slowly. Once injury occurs, the patient is at high risk for recurrence without proper rest and rehabilitation. Hamstring strain is a noncontact injury and usually occurs with either acute or insidious onset. Strain injuries frequently are seen in athletes who run, jump, and kick.
Hamstring injuries occur in all athletes- even professionals. Miles Austin of the Dallas Cowboys recently has been in the news for a hamstring strain that may cause him to miss as much as three weeks. Kenny Britt of the Tennessee Titans was also recovering from a right hamstring strain when he twisted on his right leg resulting in a season ending ACL-MCL injury. One must wonder if Britt’s hamstring injury had anything to do with his ACL/MCL injury.
The treatment of a hamstring strain starts with the RICE method of rest, ice, compression and elevation. Evidence has shown that a period of immobilization, (i.e. shutting down), is helpful and the length of immobilization will depend on the severity of the injury. After immobilization, the athlete should work with a PT or athletic trainer to regain strength and flexibility prior to getting back on the field. If the athlete returns too soon, he or she is at risk for re-injury.
The key to these injuries is definitely prevention. Pre-exercise stretching and adequate warm-up are important issues. When starting a season, a graded approach with gradually increasing exercise volume and intensity may also be helpful.