Muscle strains are the curse of every sportspersons season.
They usually occur at the most inconvenient moment and more often than not disrupt training for weeks in less severe cases to two or more months in more significant incidences. With mild strains, people report feeling a twinge that they feel like they can continue on with but pain, weakness and limited movement sets in after a period of rest.
In the case of more severe strains, people will experience a significant loss in strength, will more than likely be limping in the example of a lower leg muscle strain, and will be very restricted in their movements for the first week or so. So the best thing to do is if in doubt compress the injured area and take appropriate action to make a timely and full recovery.
Muscle injuries vary in their severity from mild muscle damage (grade I) to more severe muscle fiber tearing (grade II) and in some cases complete tears (grade III). The most prevalent GAA injury is a hamstring strain, owing to the high volume of training/ games and exposure to lots of high speed running.
The vast majority of muscle strains are non-contact so as you can imagine there are a number of factors involved. There is still a belief among many that most injuries can be put down to lack of flexibility or an inadequate warm-up. If it was that simple and straightforward professional sports teams wouldn’t invest so much in a team of physiotherapy staff and strength & conditioning coaches.
There are a number of factors at play in a muscle strain injury, and these apply to areas other than the hamstring such as hip flexor, groin and calf strains.When talking about these “factors” or “risk factors” we like to divide these into “modifiable” (factors which you can change) and “non-modifiable” (those that are out of your control).
Non-modifiable risk factors for muscle strains are older age and previous muscle strain. In fact, there is up to a 600% increased risk of a hamstring strain if you have had a previous hamstring strain (Mendiguchia et al, 2012). This increased risk can be explained by inadequate rehab, where players return to playing while they still are not at their baseline strength and flexibility measures.
You can get back playing without completing your rehab fully, but if you still have deficits in certain areas of strength and mobility you are leaving yourself at high risk for injury recurrence. So although the previous injury is non-modifiable in one sense, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of recurrence.
The modifiable risk factors comprise a much longer list; recovery, strength, lumbopelvic (core) control, high training load, and flexibility. Recovery encompasses sleep and nutrition.
Most athletes are well versed in how to eat to recover, incorporating foods rich in protein and carbohydrates. Often overlooked is the role of sleep. Research has shown there is a 70% increased risk of injury if an athlete sleeps for less than 7 hours per night.
Adequate strength and flexibility are also important variables, and the addition of strength exercises such as the Nordic hamstring curl has been shown to decrease hamstring strains by 50%. Although seen as a strength exercise it can significantly improve hamstring flexibility and even increase acceleration speed! This is because it incorporates an “eccentric muscle contraction” where the muscle is lengthening as it’s contracting.
A physiotherapist will be able to identify any of these risk factors and give you a plan to address them before you get into the full swing of the season. We can show you how to programme in certain exercises and give you exercises that we have seen work effectively in clinic for years.
It’s always best to address any chinks in the chain before it becomes a problem during a spell of important games. As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine! Prehabilitation is commonplace in elite sport and there is no reason it shouldn’t be in amateur sport either.
If you have any other queries or you are not quite sure where to begin, feel free to contact us online here, via email, or over the phone on 025 35015.
You can also avail of a free 15-minute physio consultation in the clinic with one of our physiotherapists.
You can book online here Or Give us a call on 02535015 Fermoy Main Office or APC Cork, Club Vitae Clinic calls can be made to 085 7740559 today to talk through any questions and concerns you may have. Thanks for reading!