Runner's Muscles 

 

Hamstrings
Runners rely on their hamstrings more than any other muscle group.

  The hamstrings are located in the back of your upper legs and there are three in all, Biceps Femoris (2 heads), Semitendinous and Semimembranosus. They originate underneath the gluteus muscles, attached to the pelvis bone, and attach just below the knee on the tibia (shin)
Their major functions are to bend (flex) the knee, as in bringing your heel up towards your bum; and straighten (extend) the hip, moving leg backwards
The bulk of the hamstring muscle is made up of fast twitch fibres, meaning they can create powerful and fast movements.

Most muscles have an opposing antagonist muscle, and for the hamstrings it is the quadriceps (thigh), so unfortunately the poor hamstring is often overpowered by his big , bully brother. The quadriceps are a force to be  reckoned with, they are the biggest and strongest muscle group in body and often the hamstring isn’t strong enough to contain them

Unfortunately the hamstrings are very susceptible to strain, pulls and tears, or just tightening. Any activity that requires a high degree of agility, power or speed, such as football, tennis, and sprinting, run a high risk of having a hamstring injury. In fact the most common and frustrating injury for AFL players and their clubs is hamstring injury.

Speaking of the AFL and hamstring injuries, they did a study throughout the major and local clubs on hamstring injuries and came up with a few interesting facts. Even though stretching has been introduced and widely used by footballers over the past 15 years, the amount of hamstring injuries has not decreased, in fact it has increased; hamstrings are mostly likely to tear or get strained in the first or last quarters of the game, this could mean they are either not warmed up enough in the first quarter, or too tired by the end of the match.

Ok how do we look after the hamstrings...

Warm up - hamstrings do not like sudden movements without being loosened up first, you need at least a 10 minute warm up before doing any sprint or speed work

Stretch- The hamstrings are one muscle group that respond well to stretching. Because they run up and down, it is easy to lengthen them. Be aware though there are three in there so make sure you are stretching all of them. Static stretches (going into a stretch and holding for 20-30 seconds) are good, you need to spend at least 5-10 mins stretching after your run. Yoga and Pilates are effective as well. See common hamstring stretches below

Rest- Listen to them, if they are niggling or whinging or cramping when you are running, don’t continue to put pressure on them, stop and stretch, reduce your run distance, or have some rest days, do other activities that don’t put as much pressure on them

Strengthen - If you really think it’s an issue of them being weak, or you have overdeveloped quad muscles (like maybe you are a rugby player who cycles in his spare time!) you may want to do some specific exercises to strengthen your hamstrings to bring them into line...the best isolated exercise for the hamstrings are seated or standing leg curls

Compression Garments- These are known to support and keep the hamstring area warm

Hamstring Injuries

There are three types of hamstring injury

All the injuries usually occur when the hamstring is stretched too far past its limits

A first degree injury is damage to some of the muscle fibre, you may not feel a grade one until you have finished running and then it may present as a tightness or pain on stretching

A second degree injury is more damage to the fibres and will feel like a pull and be painful and cause you to have to stop running, it will be painful to stretch and even painful to touch

A third degree is tearing of the fibres and is very painful, you will feel an intense burning or stabbing, you will have to stop, and you may not even be able to walk. Swelling and bruising may even be evident

Treatment for the Hamstrung!
As with most soft tissue injuries, the best first aid and immediate treatment is RICE,
Rest -stop running
Ice -ice packs on and off for 10mins at a time, not just for an hour, but on and off consistently or while sitting for 48hours
Compression- Wear your skins or apply a compression bandage
Elevate- try to keep your leg raised while sitting
If third grade consult a doctor or other health professional

After 72 hours, you can try a light jog, but stop if the pain occurs again, stretch
Get back into running slowly and try shorter distances, interspersed with stretching once you have warmed up
Steer clear of speed work until hamstring has fully recovered
Sports massage is very effective for hamstring tightness or injury

Hamstring Stretches
     

 Lean over your straight raised
Leg until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg

To stretch the other hamstrings
keep your body the same and just move your arm to the right

 Repeat, moving your arm across to the left

     

 Sit with Legs outstretched and straight and reach for your toes until you feel the stretch

 Lie on your back, bend one leg, lift the other leg and pull it towards you until you feel the stretch

 Cross feet, reach down and try to touch the back ankle of the leg that is behind

 


 

 
     
 
 

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