Hamstring strains are one of the most common muscle strains in soccer players. Whether it is from sprinting after an opponent or passing a long ball to a teammate, a strain can be season ending. It often becomes a repeat injury the next season as well. The good news is soccer players can help prevent strains from occurring.
Physical therapist Abby Graham shares some exercise tips to help prevent hamstring injuries.
Eccentric hamstring strengthening, or lengthening strengthening, is a proven way to help reduce hamstring injuries. It also helps strengthen up hamstrings after an injury. Soccer players demand a lot out of their hamstrings. Most hamstring injuries in soccer players occur when the hamstring is lengthened (i.e. kicking a ball or sprinting down the field). Because of this, soccer players need to have strong hamstrings in a lengthened range.
Here are a few eccentric hamstring strengthening exercises:
Hold the athlete’s ankles in place as they lean forward as far as possible until they break/fall forward, catching themselves with their arms. Then push yourself back upward using your arms. Focus on slow forward lowering which is the eccentric phase of this exercise.
Single leg dead lifts
Stands on one leg and lean forward as far as possible with minimal bend in the knee and spine. Then use your hamstrings to return to upright position. Focus on a slow forward lowering which is the eccentric phase of this exercise.
Prone hamstring curls
Lay on your stomach and use your non-injured leg to assist curling your injured leg back. Slowly lower your injured leg back to the ground (starting position). It is ideal to use an ankle weight around your injured leg. Try to get your leg to extend past neutral (off a treatment table).
You may also use a prone hamstring curl machine found at a gym. Raise both legs and slowly lower only one leg down. Choose a light enough weight that you can control it with only one leg. The slow lowering phase is the eccentric part of this exercise.
Hamstring walking bridge
Start on your back in a bridge position (arms at sides, knees bent up, feet flat on ground). Lift up your hips and walk feet as far away from your trunk as possible. Lower your hips back down and repeat. You can also choose to walk your feet back into your body instead of lowering your hips down. This would be a concentric (shortening) hamstring contraction.
Hamstring curls on ball
Lay on your back with ankles on an exercise ball. Curl your knees towards your body. Lift your hips and slowly roll the ball away from your body. Lower your hips back down and repeat. Rolling the ball away from your body is the eccentric phase of this exercise. You can also perform a concentric hamstring contraction by curling the ball into your body with your hips lifted up.
Many European soccer teams have started to focus on this type of strengthening both in the pre-season and during season play. These teams have seen a reduction in hamstring injuries amongst their players.
TRIA’s Return to Soccer Program will work with you to incorporate soccer skills into your recovery. Our physical therapists are here to help you get back on the field. For more information visit the Return to Soccer Program webpage or call 952-806-5616 to schedule an evaluation.