Hamstring Injury : Tennis Injuries

When referring to hamstring injury, the “hamstrings" can refer to tendons or muscles of the thigh region. There are three rear thigh hamstring muscles: the semitendinosus is the connector tendon at the mid-back of the thigh; the semimembranosus is the middle tendon; and the biceps femoris is the tendon of the lower back part of the thigh. These tendons form part of the ligaments for the fibia and tibia that reach between the knee joint and the base of the buttocks. Both tendons and ligaments interact with the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back through the buttocks to the lower leg. These hamstrings have different functions for movement and are particularly used for stretching from the hip and bending the knees, as in tennis when knees are bent to return low shots or to extend and hit high balls. If vigorously pulled, injury can occur to the tendons, ligaments or sciatic nerve.

Symptoms of Hamstring Injury

If you’ve pulled your hamstring during a tennis game after lunging to hit the ball, you’ll know instantly courtesy of the sudden spasm and snap sensation, accompanied by pain in the back of the thigh. In most cases, tennis players cannot continue playing and have difficulty standing on the affected leg. The hamstring muscle becomes tight and tender with swelling, and bruising if severe. The tendon connecting from the back thigh to the mid-back part of the buttocks is the most susceptible to being torn during a match.

Causes of Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injuries are graded according to the ruptures or tear of the tendon, and the grading of the injury is what indicates the actual cause. Grade III is a severely torn muscle and occurs frequently in sports like tennis when players jump and leap to hit fast-flying tennis balls. Other causes include not warming up properly before playing, not wearing proper supporting tennis shoes, not drinking enough liquids or eating the right foods causing muscle cramp, playing tennis on an uneven surface that can result in falls, not playing with healthy movement techniques specific to tennis, and weakness in the muscles due to illness, diet or prior injury.

Medical Treatment of Hamstring Injury

The usual response to hamstring injury is to refrain immediately from using the muscle, to place ice on the injured site of the hamstring, to compress the area as a support, and to keep the leg raised for blood flow and to reduce swelling. If the injury is a slight pull, rest and an anti-inflammatory medication can be used as painkiller. The hamstring may then self-heal. In more severe cases, the player will need to see a medical doctor for examination of the injured hamstring. Physicians may provide a splint, crutches and painkillers. Players may also be referred to a physiotherapist for a gradual muscle strengthening programme. If there is a total rupture or tear of the tendon or ligament from the bone, then surgery may be required, particularly because of the nerve connections in the injured site.

Preventing Hamstring Injury

Stretching regularly before starting a tennis match and also strengthening the muscles of the thigh through a specialised training programme can reduce the risk of hamstring injury. Muscle cramps can occur when players don’t follow a healthy nutrition regimen or if they don’t consume enough liquids, so avoiding dehydration is important to prevent hamstring injury. Insufficient rest or overextending the muscles for long periods of time when playing tennis can also cause weakness to the hamstrings, resulting in injury. It is recommended to consult a tennis coach or medical professional about hamstring injuries and how best to avoid hamstring trauma through a healthy diet and exercise.

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