Hamstring injuries are common among athletes who participate in sports that require sprinting. Unfortunately, hamstring tears are notorious for having a long recovery time and increased risk for re-injury. In fact, nearly one-third of hamstring tears recur within the first year, partially due to the fact that athletes return to their sport prior to meeting return to sport criteria. Physical therapy for a hamstring tear has been demonstrated to be beneficial to help patients fully recover and return to their sport having achieved the required functional ability.
What Causes a Hamstring Tear?
Several risk factors may increase your chances of experiencing a hamstring strain or tear, including:
Hamstring tears are one of the most common sports-related injuries, most notably those requiring maximal sprint accelerations (track) or sudden changes in direction (soccer and football). Athletes who participate in sports that require ballistic movements (skiing, skating and dancing) are also at risk. It is one of the main reasons athletes miss their sporting events.
Leg muscle imbalance may contribute to an increased risk of hamstring injury. When one side is stronger than the other, that imbalance can lead to a strain or tear. Weak hamstrings can result in an imbalance between the quadriceps muscle and the hamstring muscles that can also lead to a hamstring injury with the quadriceps overpowering the hamstrings as the leg swings forward during sprinting.
Of all muscle injuries, a hamstring tear has one of the highest recurrence rates, which is estimated to range between 12% and 33%. Prematurely returning to sports, without proper physical therapy treatment, may increase the chances of a recurrence.
Both aging athletes, as well as adolescent athletes who are still growing, are at a higher risk of hamstring injury. Other suspected risk factors include poor flexibility, poor conditioning, and inadequate warm up.
Preventing a Hamstring Tear
Research shows that those who maintain optimal hamstring strength and power (particularly eccentric strength) may be less likely to strain or tear their hamstring. Additionally, performing agility drills can improve ability to move quickly in different directions decreasing strain on the hamstrings and knees. Achieving and maintaining good flexibility of the hamstrings as well as the entire lower extremity is required to maximize sports performance.
A hamstring tear tends to be a nagging injury that can be re-injured if not rehabbed properly. Research shows that the typical hamstring strain gets better in about 40 days. Depending on the grade of tear, recovery may take longer or shorter. Work with a physical therapist to find out which exercises are best to help reduce the risk of a hamstring tear and how to minimize the chances of re-injuring the muscle.
Recovery from a Hamstring Tear at Twin Boro Physical Therapy
If you suspect you have a hamstring tear or other leg condition, you may benefit from physical therapy to help you recover. An individualized physical therapy treatment plan for your hamstring tear can help you manage pain, regain strength and improve range of motion and mobility. As with any injury, the main goal of physical therapy for a hamstring tear is to help you get back to optimal function as quickly as possible. Treatment duration will vary depending on the type of injury you have, its severity, and your unique needs.
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