It's one of the most dreaded injuries in sports - a hamstring strain. But what is it, and how can you avoid it?
A hamstring strain is a tear in one or more of the muscles in the back of the upper leg. There are three in total, which are responsible for extending the hip and flexing the knee joint.
Most hamstring strains occur during sprinting - when you are running flat out, these muscles have to work hard to slow the tibia as it swings out, and then extend the hip back ready for the next stride. At this point, just before the foot hits the ground, the muscles are maximally activated and fully stretched out.
Other factors that increase the chance of injury include:
- Age: The older you are, the greater at risk.
- Previous Injury: Previous injuries to this area increase the risk.
- Flexibility: The more flexible this area is, the less likely you are to get injured
- Muscle strength: Lack of hamstring strength increases the chance of injury
- Fatigue and conditioning: Tired and poorly conditioned athletes lose coordination and increase their chances of injury.
While there's nothing you can do about advancing years, you can increase your strength and flexibility, and be sure to always warm up. This will dramatically reduce your chances of falling victim to this dreaded injury.