Don't underestimate a hamstring strain

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

Some injuries can bring an inconvenient end to a game. Some injuries can halt seasons, and some can devastate careers. Over the last decade or so in the North-East alone we've seen some very talented players who, through no fault of their own, just can't manage to avoid injury.

From Kieron Dyer in his time at Newcastle, and somehow still happening at QPR, to Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Bates at Middlesbrough, these are some of the players who could have gone down as heroes for both club and perhaps country had they been a touch luckier.

The one and only good thing about being a professional sports star and being injured, is the access to expert medical advice in an instant.

The medical team at Middlesbrough is one of the best around and Bates and Woodgate are in safe hands with physios like Chris Mosely and ex-Darlington defender Adam Reed taking care of them day in and day out.

But, if you're a grassroots player and injury is blighting your career, or proving an inconvenience to you turning out with your mates for a game of five-a-side this week, where do you turn?

One of the things I've learned from being a physio and listening to my patients is that when you're injured it's impossible to be 100 per cent sure who to ask for help.

A lack of action will inevitably prolong the injury and even the wrong type of action from choosing the wrong advice can also ensure your absence is longer than it should be.

Here's a true story from my Durham physio clinic recently and unfortunately it's a very familiar one and one which you'll need to recognise if you're wanting to avoid missing unnecessary games.

Hamstring injuries are very common.

If it hasn't already happened, it's only a matter of time before that sudden sharp pain in the back of the leg occurs, often in the early stages of a game.

Yet hamstring injuries are not always as they seem. In fact many hamstring injuries are what I loosely term a 'phantom' hamstring strain.

The pain in your leg is not actually your hamstring tearing, it's a problem with a nerve in your back. The nerve is put under too much pressure which irritates the hamstring, causing it to tighten. But because you recognise this as a sharp, often cramp-like and immobilising pain you immediately think you have a hamstring tear.

Two or three days later the hamstring pain as you know it disappears and after a mini fitness test, all appears well enough for you to play again.

But the pain re-surfaces at around about the same time it did in the last match, run or ride.

It can also happen in calf muscles too. So if this is happening, ask your physio to check your lower back or look for your own signs like increased back stiffness, pain in your back after you've sat for more than 20 minutes or pins and needles in your leg.

They're all good signs that your back is a problem and likely to be increasing the tension in your hamstring. Massaging and stretching your hamstring or calf is not the answer, sorting your lower back problem out is.

My patient in Durham had this misdiagnosed three times by different physios and went through a constant cycle for more than six months.

He was pretty shocked to find out the true cause of the problem. A real, genuine hamstring strain will immobilise you, or at least limit running for approximately two weeks, and you need another two weeks of a gradual return thereafter.

If your pain has gone a few days later but returns, it's unlikely to be a muscle problem. Have it looked at then improve your back and core strength to stop it from happening again.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree