Some of the most common injuries Fusion sees at the start of spring are due to the aggressive acceleration of training. We’re seeing a huge increase of hamstring, plantaris and hip flexor injuries this early spring season!
For our New York City-based clients, approaching a training discipline with ease seems counter to their work-hard, play-hard attitudes. But easing into training is an important part of prevention, and it offers insurance that athletes won’t be sidelined for weeks.
Hip flexors are typically the most under-trained muscle by athletes. This weakness is due to the fact that most athletes train hard but have a “real job” that requires hours at a computer and sitting at a desk. As a result, hip flexors can be the first to be strained during spring training.
The hip flexor is a group of muscles that allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist. Found deep in the abdominal cavity, they are some of the strongest muscles in the body. Placing stress on the hip flexors during a sprint, for example, can result in injury. Runners and soccer players are especially prone to hip flexor injuries because of the constant demand on them during these activities. A clue that the hip flexor is injured is pain felt in the upper groin region, where the thigh meets the pelvis, increased pain with pivot or lateral planting, increased pain when going up and down the stairs and pain when the top of the anterior hip bone is touched.
• Do a dynamic warm up before exercise.
• Hang from a pull-up bar and bicycle your legs as high as possible.
• Sit on the floor against a wall and lift your straight leg up as high as possible.
Hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh from the hip to the knee. They allow you to bend your leg at the knee. Tears or strains are a common injury among soccer and football players, especially where there’s a lot of running and jumping or sudden stopping and starting.
Getting a hamstring strain is more likely if:
• You fail to warm up before exercising.
• The quadriceps, a group of muscles located in front of the thighs, are tight or overly developed. As a result, they can pull your pelvis forward and tighten the hamstrings, increasing the chances of tearing fibers in this muscle complex.
• When the glutes are weak the hamstrings can become overworked and strained. The glutes, the body’s largest and most powerful muscle group, work together with the hamstrings to make it a perfect biomechanical lever.
Hamstring injuries plague club and professional sports teams, including the NFL. Hamstring injuries linger and reoccur because athletes tend to get back in the game before the muscles are fully healed, or they don’t get the proper physiotherapy necessary to assure the strain will not be a repeat offender.
There have been a number of recent studies that show that Nordic Hamstring curls can prevent muscle injury.
Here’s the drill: After a warm up, kneel on a mat, with a spotter securing your ankles. Slowly and as smoothly as possible approach the floor using your hamstrings to slow down your movement. When you are ready, use your arms to lower yourself to the floor.
This type of exercise needs to be done very slowly and allow enough time between sessions to prevent weakening or tearing the hamstrings.
There are also hamstring curls with resistance training. Check out this video from the Mayo Clinic.
The plantaris muscle is a narrow muscle that runs behind the knee joint and extends to the back of the heel, near the Achilles tendon. Although the plantaris is considered an insignificant muscle because it’s only really utilized during swimming, injury can still be painful. The pain may occur behind the knee or in the calf. Injury sometimes occurs from running, jumping or pushing off one leg. Once torn scar tissue forms in the healing process and this tissue can get adhered to surrounding muscle fibers and nerves. This formation can result in a binding of the nerve and interfere with proper muscle contraction. This insufficiency can result in painful cramping, tightness and repetitive muscle tearing.
Injuries to this muscle are due to tightness and aging; so stretching and increasing blood flow to this area are key to injury prevention.
Stretching should include the hamstring and quad muscle group as well as the calf complex, including the anterior aspect of the chin.
Also, make sure you stay hydrated before, during and after your workout. Dehydration can make fibers brittle and more susceptible to micro tears that can lead to a substantial tear.
There has been considerable study of the effects of stretching and for how long you should stretch. Sports medicine professionals used to believe vigorous stretching prevented muscle injury. But research shows it can cause muscle damage and actually decrease performance.
A recent article on stretching and injury prevention in The New York Times provides a good summary. Here are a few tips from the article that examined a study from The Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism:
• Holding a static stretch for more than 60 seconds can decrease immediate performance.
• Stretching less than 30 seconds followed by dynamic warm-ups is better than a static longer stretch.
• Short static stretches during a warm-up can reduce strain or muscle tear.
With the rush to get back to the playing field or make good on workout goals, easing into the season, coupled with strength training and prevention, is paramount. If you want further explanation of any of these exercises or advice on injury prevention please do not hesitate to contact the experts at Fusion Physical Therapy & Sports Performance.