Evidence-based soccer: How to treat hamstring strains

world cupOver the past month, much of the world has been glued to the television watching World Cup soccer matches. I’m not typically a soccer aficionado, but I did catch a few games. One thing I learned about the sport this year is the increasing prevalence of hamstring injuries among soccer players.

According to U.S. Soccer, hamstring injuries are on their way to becoming the most common injury in the sport. They most typically occur when the muscle makes a strong contraction while being stretched, like while sprinting or kicking during a soccer match.

A systematic review published in by the Cochrane Collaboration looked at physical therapy treatments to prevent reoccurring hamstring injuries. The reviewers found there is not high quality data on the best methods for treating hamstring injuries.

“Most proposed physiotherapy techniques for rehabilitation of hamstring injuries have not been assessed using randomized trials,” they wrote. “Those that have only have single studies with a limited range of participants and outcomes.”

The reviewers did find some evidence that stretching is helpful in treating hamstring injuries, but the finding are not strong enough to make a recommendation. There is also limited evidence that exercises to correct movement dysfunction, and essentially help the body move in more anatomically correct ways – speed up the rate of recovery, but again more evidence is required.

The take-home messages? As soccer continues to gain popularity in the U.S., researchers should spend more time developing the evidence on how to prevent and treat hamstring injuries.

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