Hamstring injuries – YIKES! Need I extrapolate on the frustration soccer players experience with these three muscles? We can all agree that hamstrings can become the bane of any soccer player’s existence. This is no doubt due to the fact that this muscle group has the highest rate of injury (at around 16%) and an even higher rate of re-injury (22%-25%) (Petersen et al).
Prevention of hamstring injuries is a complex topic with varying opinions regarding the best approach. Yoga alone, will not solve all of your hamstring problems. However, practicing yoga can address two common risk factors related to hamstring injury: strength & flexibility (Petersen & Holmich). How you may ask.
Soccer players naturally develop strong and powerful quadriceps muscles because of their crucial role in running and kicking. The hamstrings work in conjunction with the quadriceps by slowing down the follow-through phase of a kick. However, this primary role of the quadriceps can lead to an imbalance in strength between these two muscles. If there is a strength imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings, injury can occur when the quadriceps overpower the hamstrings in the follow-through of a kick (Zeigler). This hamstring strength imbalance is a common known risk factor for hamstring injury.
Studies have also found that poor hamstring flexibility is one risk factor for hamstring injuries such as strains. A thirteen week study of military infantry basic trainees found that the group that integrated regular hamstring stretching every day not only increased their hamstring flexibility, but also had 12.4% fewer injuries than the control group which did not have a regular stretching program (Hartig et al).
So what does this all mean for soccer players? It means, you need to stretch and strengthen your hamstrings! Give your hamstrings some extra TLC with the following three simple yoga poses which you can implement both in and out of season to help avoid injury.
1) Dynamic Bridge Pose – Hamstring Strengthening Exercise
How: Lie on your back placing your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Reach down with your hands facing down and make sure you can brush the back of your heels with your fingertips. Your feet are hips width. From here, press your feet firmly into the ground and slowly lift your hips up towards the ceiling. As you lift your hips make sure to engage the back of your thighs (hamstrings) while keeping your gluteus muscles relaxed. Keep your hips lifted for one breath, and then slowly release your hips back down to the ground.
Complete 3 sets of 10.
2) Dynamic Warrior 3 Pose – Hamstring Stretching Exercise
How: Start standing and move your torso forward hinging at your hips simultaneously reaching your right leg straight back behind you. Your torso and right leg should be parallel to the floor and you should feel a stretch in the back of your standing leg. If you are a little tight you can bend your standing leg slightly. Once you feel the stretch set your back foot down and switch sides.
Complete 3 sets of 10 (alternating legs).
3) Supine Strap – Hamstring Stretching Exercise
For the following pose you will need a yoga strap. If you do not have a yoga strap, no worries! You can use a towel, sweatshirt, t-shirt or anything else you can hook your foot in.
How: Start by lying on the floor with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent (make sure your strap is at arm’s reach). Bring your right knee in towards your chest and loop your strap around the arch of your foot, holding the strap in both hands. Straighten your right leg by reaching your heel towards the ceiling. Hold your strap so you can keep your shoulders, head, and neck on the ground. From here slowly start straightening your left leg, adding a stretch to your left hip flexors. For some, you will be able to straighten your left leg completely, and for others this may be too intense. Listen to your body and if you need to keep a bend in your left leg then do so.
Hold for 60-90 seconds then switch sides.
See? That wasn’t so bad.
Remember, hamstrings are a muscle group to manage. So make sure to work with your trainers, coaches and fellow players to proactively strengthen and stretch those pesky hamstrings on a regular basis.
For those that are interested in expanding their knowledge, head to Raw Sports Yoga!
1) Askling C, Karlsson J, Thorstensson A. Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scand J Med Sci Sports2003;13:244–50.
2) Hartig DE, Henderson JM. Increasing hamstring flexibility decreases lower extremity overuse in military basic trainees. Am J Sports Med1999;27:173–6.
4) Petersen J, Holmich P. Evidence based prevention of hamstring injuries in sport. Br J Sports Med 2005;39:319–23.
5) Petersen J, Thorborg K, Nielsen MB, Budtz-Jorgensen E, Homich P. Preventative effect of eccentric training on acute hamstring injuries in men’s soccer: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(11):2296-2303.
6) Zeigler, T. (n.d.). Hamstring Strain. Retrieved November 16, 2014 <http://www.sportsmd.com/Articles/id/21/n/hamstring_strain.aspx#sthash