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NFL Injuries: Not so FAST! I’ve pulled my hamstrings.

POSTED BY: Christopher Thurston, Jr., PT, DPT, CSCS Physical Therapist

Pulled Hamstring.. more common than you would think.
When you least expect it, it hits you like a brick wall. You’ve pulled a muscle! A scenario that is all too familiar for many athletes as well as “weekend warriors” involved in professional, collegiate or recreational sports. As a physical therapist, not only can I relate to your situation, but I can also assure you that your injury tops the list of most common pulled muscles.

At this point in the NFL season, there have been over 20 players suffering from hamstring injuries, including the Philadelphia Eagle’s quarterback Michael Vick and the Oakland Raider’s running back Darren McFadden. In a business where it’s a race to heal quicker than the average person, the likelihood of re-injury haunts players, coaches, and fans alike. Both, Darren McFadden and Michael Vick sat out two weeks before returning to the field. The decision to do so proved to be ill fated in both cases as they each have re-injured themselves. 1

Why are some players able to return sooner than others from the same injury?
The medical term for a “pulled” hamstring is a muscle strain or more specifically, a hamstring strain. Hearing of Michael Vick and Darren McFadden’s injury leaves room for question as you wonder “how severe is the injury and how does that effect their return?” Sprains (related to ligaments) and strains (related to muscle) are classified based on the amount of fibers torn. Grade 1, involves a few muscle fibers. Grade 2 involves about half of the fibers, and grade 3 involves all of the muscle fibers, and possibly other surrounding structures. The severity of a muscle strain is discovered through imaging, preferably a MRI, in addition to a clinical assessment of the area. 2

Rehab? Really? YES!!
When high profile athletes such as Michael Vick or Darren McFadden go down with a muscle strain, the rehab process begins immediately! Initially, the focus is on managing inflammation through ice, anti-inflammatory medication, and ultrasound to help decrease pain and inflammation. A common misconception with a “pulled” muscle is to stretch, stretch and stretch it until it gets better. In fact, the preferred and more effective treatment is to take athletes through a succession of strengthening and agility exercises, starting at a low to moderate intensity. The entire process can take from a couple of weeks up to a month, depending on how well the athlete progresses.3

It’s been weeks, when are they returning to the line-up??
Knowing when a player should return can be a tough task for a clinician as there are numerous key factors to consider. The number one concern is the likelihood of re-injury. Even though hamstring muscle weakness has been shown to be a predictor of re-injury, incorporating “core” stabilization and agility work into the athletes’ program has shown to be even more effective. Sport-specific activities need to be tolerated pain-free. This includes a full practice without any symptoms, initially avoiding explosive maneuvers. In all, the player has to feel comfortable, which plays a vital role in the decision-making process. The goal of rehab is to get them to that point as quickly as possible.

If your injury sound like this and you think you are a candidate for Physical Therapy you can secure a prescription from your doctor and call Florida Hospital Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation for an appointment by calling 407-303-8080 or log on to our website at www.fhsportsmed.com