Sneak Peak Into: Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment. Part 3

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soccer player with bandaged leg

Sneak Peak into Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Players, Parents, and Coaches.

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Available May 28th, 2014

This week take a look at a topic discussed in John Gallucci Jr.’s book:

Common Soccer Injuries: Hamstring Strains

Hamstring strains are a very common soccer injury and cause a tremendous amount of games lost to injury at all levels. The hamstring is so utilized during soccer activities like running and kicking that the amount of injuries seen in this muscle is not surprising.

Muscle strains occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its normal limit. This can be the result of doing too much too soon, inadequately warming-up or overworking the muscle, or simply a chance occurrence. Hamstring strains are usually felt in the middle of the back of the thigh. But because the length of the hamstring muscle group covers the entire back of the thigh, you can strain this muscle in any area.

Signs and Symptoms of Hamstring Strains

When identifying any muscle strain, signs and symptoms can range from a sharp, stabbing muscle pain with activity to a basic ache during rest. Other common symptoms include:

  • swelling
  • a visible, physical divot or spacing in the tissue
  • black and blue discoloration, combined with associated pain
  • loss of range of motion at either the knee or hip

These symptoms vary based on the degree of the muscle strain. A First Degree hamstring strain is a less serious over-stretching of the muscle fibers. Tearing of a few muscle fibers is characteristic of Second Degree strains, but the most painful and serious strain is a Third Degree, which is a full tear of the muscle.

Treating and Healing from Hamstring Strains

Any type of strained muscle should be treated with the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Instinctively, most people will try to stretch or roll out their muscle on a foam roller to alleviate their pain. This is not recommended for an acute strain! Although these can be beneficial treatment options, they should not be performed until the muscle has had a chance to recover and heal.

Before progressing into any type of functional rehab (and certainly before returning to running or playing), the muscle must heal. Most soccer players try to come back from hamstring injury way too quickly, and do not understand the importance of rest.

Once the athlete can walk, sit, and stand without muscle pain, he or she can begin to progress into some low-level flexibility exercises. This is also the time to start gradually rebuilding strength with different exercises that work to stabilize and increase the functionality of the hamstring. Those are followed by soccer-specific activities, ultimately with a full return to play.

Can I Run With A Hamstring Strain?

As previously mentioned, all muscle strains require a period of rest to fully heal from the injury. Performing at a normal capacity on a strained hamstring will only increase the amount of injury to the muscle.

Once a full range of motion is achieved with good baseline strength, the athlete can begin a running program that includes running straight ahead, backpedaling, running diagonally, and shuffling. When the athlete can run with no pain, he or she can advance into more soccer-specific drills, such as dribbling and passing, with a full return back to sport. The idea with any return to play protocol is to break down each movement to the micro-level, and rebuild the athlete from the ground up, restoring foundational movements first, and then progressing to larger, macro-level activities.