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Hamstring Injuries in the 2014 World Cup

August 5, 2014 8:00a | CORE PT & MC | by CORE Movement Specialists

Hamstring injuries are becoming seemingly more frequent even for professional players. For example, the USA team in the World Cup in Brazil suffered hamstring injuries to Matt Besler, who plays for Sporting Kansas City, and Jozy Altidore, in the opening game, a victory over Ghana. They’re not the only ones struggling with hamstring injuries. At least nine players in the World Cup are suffering from the same including Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazil’s Givanildo Vieira de Souza (aka Hulk).

Why are recurring hamstring injuries so prevalent even at the elite sport level? Most hamstring injuries are driven by an underlying muscle imbalance. The body has multiple layers of muscles. Some layers like the hamstrings are power muscles ideal for producing explosive power, strength and speed. Other layers are stabilizer muscles that function to decelerate forces on the body, control posture and alignment.

Anytime the deeper stabilizer muscles aren’t sufficiently doing their job the power muscles attempt to do both jobs; however the job of “gluing you together” and “rapidly exploding through range” are in conflict with each other. The brain can only do both jobs by shortening the range of motion that it has to control (muscle stiffness). When the athlete challenges the system with a full range motion like sprinting, the knee rapidly accelerates into the stiffened range and a hamstring tear ensues. 

Muscle imbalance can be a result of over emphasis on strength training with insufficient focus on tissue extensibility, inefficient stabilizer muscles due to a history of previous injury and/or a movement restriction. According to the National Institute of Health, athletes have a 63 percent recurrence rate of hamstring injury following the first episode. Traditionally hamstring rehabilitation includes rest and treatments to expedite tissue healing followed by progressive stretching, strengthening and gradual return to sport. Often rehabilitation fails to identify and resolve the underlying impairments driving the hamstring to stiffen up in the first place.  It is crucial trainers identify the underlying muscle imbalance to stop the adaptive cycle leading to recurring hamstring injury and prevent these sometimes career ending injuries. 

You can decrease your risk for hamstring injury and re-injury. Movement specialists can identify and fix muscle imbalance to restore maximum efficiency in all layers of your muscle system. Muscle retraining has to be specific to the identified impairment to decrease your risk. Movement specialists around the world, including those in Kansas City, are turning to technology like The Performance Matrix to prevent injuries and revolutionize training of elite athletes and people from all walks of life. Whether you’re an elite World Cup soccer player or a recreational athlete, preventing injury is the key to keeping you successfully in the game for life.

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