By James Walker CCS, STM, BioSig, Master Trainer
Over the past few years Iâ€™ve seen a multitude of hamstring pulls and strains from elite professional athletes to very good scholastic athletes. In most instances there seems to be a common theme, structural imbalance, existing scar tissue, and a lack of strength in the hamstrings.
From an anatomical perspective the hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and attach over the hips and over the knee joints. From a performance perspective, the hamstrings extend the hips and flex the knees.
First from a structural perspective the hamstrings have a synergistic relationship with the other muscle groups that are located near or adjacent or on the opposite side of the joint. So the muscles that attach over the front of the hip (hip flexors) have a relationship with those that attach over the back (hip extensors), the outside (hip abductors), and the inside (hip adductors).
This is important because those neighboring muscles act together to produce desired movement like sprinting, running, or jumping etc. When the hip flexors become tighter or stronger than itâ€™s antagonistic neighbors the hip extensors, it will pull the hips forward and result in an alignment or imbalance issue. Likewise if the muscles that act to counter the excess forward tilt i.e., lower abdominals are unusually weak or dysfunctional, this further contributes to misalignment and structural imbalance. These imbalances may then cause excess strain on several muscle groups including the hamstrings. The tight muscles like the hip flexors will need to be stretched and loosened to help realign the hips.
Second there is usually scar tissue or adhesions in the hamstrings and itâ€™s neighbors like the hip abductors and/or hip flexors. In part due to those muscles having to over compensate by assisting the hamstrings from the repetitive use and stress over time. This excess scar tissue will interfere with the proper function and recruitment of these muscles, which in turn produces more scar tissue. This may also shorten and make the muscle tight as well.
Third the hamstrings are usually weak in comparison to itâ€™s neighbors. Since the hamstrings are part of the motor or engine, along with the hips, for those athleteâ€™s who run, jump, throw, and sprint, they need to be strong. If you want to sprint you need a high performance engine aka, Corvette or Lamborghini or Top Fuel Dragster not a Civic or Smart car. In addition the hamstrings will help support the knee joint during planting, stopping, and changing direction, so they need to be dimensionally strong.
So if you want to reduce or minimize hamstring strains address the structural imbalance, scar tissue, and strength needs early on with a good pre-training assessment or evaluation to identify and optimize performance.