You are probably all too familiar with the hamstrings. As an athlete, this is one of the most important muscle group that you use. The hamstring is actually three specific muscles located on the back of the thigh, that connect the lower leg to the pelvis. When playing soccer, you are often decelerating, accelerating and constantly running. Your hamstrings allow this large variety of movements. Since your hamstrings are so often used, they are also at a high risk for injury.
Hamstring Pulls, Tears and Strains
All three of these are really the same injury, just at a different grade (level of severity). A tear is what results in a pull or strain. At grade one, minimal swelling and some discomfort are often present. At grade two, you may limp, swelling can be present, straightening the knee can be hard and the pain will be worse than in a grade one pull or strain. At grade three (the most severe stage), you will have significant difficulty when walking, visible swelling occurs right after the injury and pain is generally quite severe.
Diagnosing Hamstring Injuries
Your doctor will start by examining the affected hamstring. He will be looking for things like swelling, bruising, weakness and checking for pain and tenderness. Once your symptoms and affected hamstring have been assessed, some form of imaging is often done to rule out other potential causes and confirm the diagnosis. An MRI is a type of imaging used to get a good look at the soft tissues, such as the muscles. This is helpful when determining the grade of your injury. A regular X-ray is helpful in determining if the hamstring has pulled a small piece of bone away.
Preventing Hamstring Injuries
Thoroughly warming up and stretching are critical in getting the hamstrings ready for training, practice and games. As mentioned above, your hamstrings play a significant role in getting you up and down the field, and if they are not up for the challenge, injury can occur.
There are also exercises that a trainer can show you that can help to get the muscles associated with the hamstrings - the hip flexors and glutes - ready to work.
Following your game, practice or training session, it is also important to stretch. This will help to keep the hamstrings flexible and less prone to injury.