How to prevent hamstring injuries in soccer players

Intrinsic risk factors for hamstring injuries among male soccer players: a prospective cohort study.
Engebretsen AH, Myklebust G, Holme I, Engebretsen L, Bahr R.
Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, UllevÄl Stadion, Oslo, Norway.

CONCLUSION: In a multivariate analysis, previous acute hamstring injury was found to be a significant risk factor for new hamstring injuries. Previously injured players have more than twice as high a risk of sustaining a new hamstring injury.

The key to preventing chronic hamstring problems is to avoid hamstring problems in the first place. Here are some strategies for avoiding hamstring pulls:

1. Get them strong. When you kick the ball your knee is being extended by the quadriceps muscles at a rapid pace, and thus with tremendous force. While the quadriceps accelerates the leg as it strikes the ball, the hamstrings have to decelerate the leg during the follow through. Virtually everyone has weak hamstrings because few people do any hamstring/glute strengthening work. If the hamstring isn’t strong enough to decelerate the leg, a strain or pull is bound to happen. Keep in mind that a pull is usually the result of micro-trauma, meaning that the repeated kicking of the ball is slowly overwhelming the capacity of the hamstring to decelerate the leg. When the hamstrings threshold is reached, the strain occurs. Keep the hamstrings strong so that they can decelerate the leg on the follow through.

The hamstring has to decelerate the leg on the follow through.

2. Keep your ass active and strong. Your glutes are the primary extensors of the hip. Sprinting power comes from the hip musculature. Every time your foot is extended and makes contact with the ground, your glutes and hamstrings have to pull you forward into the next step (this is hip extension). If the glutes aren’t extending the hip optimally, the hamstrings, and to a lesser extent the adductors (groin) will have to pick up the slack. Eventually they’ll be overwhelmed and get injured.

3. Foam roll all your leg muscles and do dynamic warmups. Work on keeping muscle tissue in good shape. Get rid of the knots and adhesions that can make your muscles tight and more prone to injury. Use dynamic warmups to activate the muscles before you just start running around.

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