Preseason is a critical period as it sets the foundation for the upcoming season. This phase however poses an increased risk to injury as workload on the muscles are suddenly increased or changed after a period of rest from the sport.
Hamstring injuries are one of the most common injuries in preseason football and is also the most common time loss injury during the football season. Lets delve into the causes of hamstring injuries and provide valuable strategies to minimise the risk of injury to help players start the season strong.
Understanding hamstring injuries:
The hamstring is a group of muscles located at the back of the thigh, responsible for bending the knee and extending the hip. In football, these muscles are put under considerable strain due to sudden accelerations, decelerations, and directional changes. Lack of proper conditioning, muscle imbalances, fatigue, and improper recovery can all contribute to the vulnerability of the hamstrings to injury.
Preventing hamstring injuries:
One of the main reasons for hamstring injuries during preseason is overtraining or rapidly escalating training loads. After a period of rest from the off season, players may be eager to regain their peak fitness leading to excessive training sessions without sufficient recovery. This sudden increase in load can lead to increased strain placed on the hamstrings and surrounding muscles making them susceptible to injury.
Avoid the temptation to push your body too hard too soon. Work with coaching staff to implement a progressive training plan that gradually increases the intensity and volume of exercise over time. Adequate rest and recovery periods must be incorporated to allow the body to adapt to the demands of training.
Rest and recovery are of paramount importance during preseason football preparation. While intense training and conditioning are essential to build fitness, adequate rest and recovery are equally crucial for optimising performance and minimise risk of injury.
Fatigue can compromise a player’s biomechanics, leading to poor running and cutting mechanics potentially exposing muscles to increase load. When fatigued , players may rely more on their hamstrings for propulsion contributing to increased strain placed on the hamstring.
It is therefore important to prioritize adequate sleep, hydration and diet habits to optimise recovery. Consider adding active recovery days ( swimming, yoga, cycling) in between hard sessions to stimulate blood flow to the muscles to maximise recovery and allow muscles to repair.
A well structured warm up is essential for preparing the body for the demands of football. Prior to intense activity it is important to prioritise dynamic stretching exercises that mimic football movements, such as high knees, lunges and leg swings. These dynamic movements increase blood flow to the muscles, improve flexibility and prepare the body for the demands of football.
Players with a previous history of hamstring injury are more prone to re-injury , especially during the preseason when the body is transitioning from off season to high intensity training.
It is important to monitor symptoms closely during preseason. Use the preseason to prepare your body for the upcoming season and reduce the risk of injury with a structured strengthening plan.
Strength training plays an important role in reducing injury risk and enhancing performance. An individualised strength plan targeting hamstrings and surrounding muscles helps make the muscles more resilient to stress and less prone to injury.
A Sports Specific Physiotherapist can identify areas of weakness and come up with a plan that best fits in with your routine,football position, strengths &weaknesses, and injury history.
Hamstrings work hard during acceleration , deceleration and change of direction, all of which are pivotal in performing well in football. Try some of our suggestions below to start you on the path to strengthening hamstrings and reduce the risk of injury during the preseason and throughout the season itself. Please stop if you experience any pain.
Kick stand RDL
If you feel this is of benefit and you would be interested in gaining education and further tailored strength plan for the season ahead don’t hesitate to consult one of our Physiotherapists. We are here to offer support and expertise to help enhance your performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Preseason is a critical phase in preparing players for the upcoming season, but it can present with an increased risk of hamstring injuries. It is important that coaches, fitness staff and players work together to implement effective strategies to mitigate these risks. By emphasizing the importance of gradual training progressions, optimising recovery , including comprehensive warm ups and addressing muscle imbalances , players can significantly reduce the likelihood of hamstring injuries and be better prepared for the season ahead.