JSOnline writer Lori Nickel (Tom Silverstein contributing) today authored this article about hamstrings injuries … Bradley Arnett is a certified trainer (C.S.C.S., USWF L1, M.ED.) and the owner of NX Level Sports Performance, where he has worked with J.J. Watt and several other NFL and college football players. He answered the simple question: Are hamstring injuries preventable in any way? Here is his entire answer as published in the jsonline story, but if you want the full article, click on the jsonline link here or above:
“You are susceptible to hamstring issues doing just about anything, but I would agree: sprinting, jumping and deceleration into change of direction would definitely increase your odds. Hamstrings are a fast twitch muscle, meaning they contract and relax rapidly depending on the demand. They rely on other muscles to help with movement such as glutes, hip flexors and lower abdominals. “When you run, the hip flexor and low abdominal musculature flex and elevate the leg, meaning the hamstring extends and lengthens the leg. “When you push off, the glute should do the work. When other musculature is deficient, the hamstring does all the work. With hamstrings not having a high end work capacity, it can fatigue and lead to injury. Most hamstring injuries happen in either initial take off (where rapid lengthening can pull it) or deceleration (the leg turns over and the athletes goes to a heel strike, which will basically stretch the hamstring leading to a pull). “Prevention of hamstring issues starts with first and foremost hip mobility, particularly the external hip and the front musculature of the hip (flexors and quad musculature). When the hips sit at an anterior tilt, sloping downwards, it pre-stretches the hamstring, leaving very little room for extension when sprinting. When you are standing, your hamstring is at its shortest, and when your knee is flexed (during running or squatting) it is at its longest. So when your hips are sloped forward, thus pre-stretching the hamstring, you have limited room, and when you are basically over-stretched, the hamstring will pull to prevent a tear. Many recommendations call for lots of stretching to prevent hamstring injuries. “To just stretch your hamstrings, when the hips are aligned this way, you are just stretching an already stretched muscle. You must consistently address anterior or frontal hip musculature to lengthen and allow hips to sit back to create space for hamstrings to articulate. “Additionally, everyone talks about the core. Well, when your hips are sloped anterior, your core is shut off. This will force a bend at the waist, shutting off the glutes and low abdominal muscles and also forcing the shoulders to round forward, shutting off upper back musculature which will force knees to valgus and take your quads (knee stability) out of the picture. “Strengthening your hamstrings is important, but when your hips are not aligned you never really work them, instead you work your lower back. So you may not exactly have weak hamstrings, they are just constantly fatigued from not getting help from other musculature. And this will affect hamstring activation in the weight room when performing certain exercises (like squats) because with limited space, you get to a certain depth and bend at the waist – thus overloading your lower back and never activating your hamstring. “I’ve had athletes who thought they knew how to squat, and after we open up their hips and ankles, they squat with half of their normal load and actually utilize their hamstrings. They end up amazingly sore, like they never have done it before. All hamstring exercise are beneficial, but when limited by hip and ankle mobility you never really strengthen them. “Active recovery is important as well. When you end up sore, these techniques are huge in aiding recovery: Self myofascial release (using foam rollers, pvc pipe, fit balls, roll sticks). That breaks up and soften tissue to keep it pliable. Contrast baths can help: Cold tub to vasoconstriction the muscles to squeeze out byproduct and then a warm bath, to flush out with fresh blood. Epsom salt baths are an awesome active recovery, the magnesium will draw blood flow to flush out and help with muscle soreness and tenderness. “Always warm-up dynamically (constant motion on your feet) and always, always have a lateral movement concept to your warm-up to do just that. A warm-up through blood flow is important so you don’t over stretch hamstrings in a linear motion until they are warm and hips are opened up. “Remember, to change your hips will take a minimum of 10,000 reps, it doesn’t happen over night and you must be diligent and consistent. You will not prevent all hamstrings issues – or any other issues for that matter – but you can decrease occurrence rate, severity and time spent watching the game versus contributing.”
So, what does this all mean for guys like Clay Matthews and Casey Hayward – well, because we’re not physicians, we’re really not sure. One thing is for certain, it’s unusual the number of hamstring injuries Packers players who have suffered from hamstring injuries and hope that the training and medical staff continue to educate themselves on the newest and most effective techniques in preventing these types of injuries in the future.