Symmetry Blog

Injury of the week - Hamstring Strains

Symmetry Physio - Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A champion of AFL has been struck down with one of the most common injuries.

We look forward to bringing you weekly injury updates from the AFL and other sports. There were plenty of injuries across the week in the AFL to look at, but with the media attention this injury has attracted it is the obvious choice for our 'Injury of the week'. Gary Ablett was in the headlines for his switch to Geelong this season, unfortunately he has only managed to last three games before injuring his right hamstring in their 3rd round clash against West Coast in Perth last Sunday.

Hamstring Strains

As a sport, AFL has one of the highest rates of hamstring injuries going around. The hamstring muscle group is made up of three muscles sitting in the back of the thigh (see image) and has an important role when sprinting to decelerate an extending knee. In AFL, the hamstring not only has to deal with a significant degree of fatigue due to the volume of running but it is also uniquely required to cope with maximal forces as a player has to sprint or kick. Even more so, when taking a low ball while on the run, the muscle is being asked to stretch as you bend forward while still trying to contract in the action of running and there is a high risk that the stress will be too much for a tired muscle and the result is a tear. Ablett's hamstring injury was likely due to fatigue throughout the game and then accelerating to sprint at full speed. 

Given the cost that these injuries have on the game, considerable effort has gone into the understanding of hamstring injuries. As a result, some of the world's leading research on hamstring injuries has been produced in Australia looking at ways to reduce injury risk, enhance the rehabilitation and predict the recovery time if an injury occurs. We now can accurately predict how long it will take for a player to get back to sport based on a number of factors; including the site of the tear, previous injury, ability to walk pain-free the next day, use of anti-inflammatory drugs and clinical exam. On average 28 days to play again is normal so expect to see Ablett out for at least 3-4 weeks depending on the severity of his tear.  

In terms of recovery, the rehabilitation is structured around a comprehensive strengthening program and structured running program designed to take you from the end of the acute phase to playing again. It is surprising how quickly you can start this as the hamstring doesn't actually have to work too hard jogging or even running up to half pace. Unfortunately, this often gives unguided athletes a false sense of security and they return to sprinting too early and will re-injure themselves. Insufficient rehab is a leading contributor to re-injury. At Symmetry Physiotherapy, expect to receive a four-page document of tailored exercises and guidance through a running program to enhance muscle recovery and ensure minimal risk of further problems.

The Team at Symmetry Physiotherapy

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