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  • Writer's pictureLionel Pannunzio PT / SCS

Why So Many Soccer Players Are Pulling Their Hamstrings?... This is Why... | Weston | Florida

Research shows that Hamstring Strain Injuries (HSI) are consistently the most prevalent injury in Soccer year after year.

Many of us have experienced running full speed with the ball or to a ball and feel a sharp pain in the hamstrings or trying to reach for a ball with a high kick movement and fell the muscle tearing.

HSI are very difficult to recover from and resting alone is not the best treatment in the long run. These muscle Injuries will heal properly when they are progressively loaded. Players usually make the mistake of resting for 2-3 weeks and then jump from complete resting to play soccer again just to tear the Hamstrings again.

Why so many players suffer a Hamstring Strain Injury ?

To start answering this question , first a little of Anatomy. We have four hamstring muscles: semimembranosus and semitendinosus (medially) and biceps femoris - short and long heads (laterally).

A hamstring strain is a common leg injury involving a tear in one or more of the hamstring muscles. A hamstring strain can range from mild to very severe involving a complete tear of the hamstring muscle.

In a recent study 36 Soccer clubs from 12 European countries were followed between 2001 and 2014. A total of 1614 hamstring injuries were recorded; 22% of players sustained at least one hamstring injury during a season.

Even though we know much more of HSI now than in the past, Research shows an annual average 2.3% year on year increase in the total hamstring injury rate over the 13-year period.

Hamstring Injuries - Causes

Common reasons for hamstring strain or injury can be categorized as primary or secondary.

Primary Causes

  • Poor timing-intermuscular coordination and eccentric strength in the hamstring muscles during the switch between late leg recovery and initial leg approach in the swing phase of sprinting (Woods et al. 2004). Pretty difficult to understand, right? Basically what you have to know is that all your Lower Extremity Muscles work together and coordination between the activation of one muscle group should coincide with the deactivation of the opposite group. This becomes super important when we are running at full speed. Lack of coordination due to tight Hamstrings, fatigue, poor core control can lead to HSI.

  • Lack of “stiffness” and eccentric strength in the hamstring muscles during the ground contact phase of running (Bosch and Klomp 2005). “Stiffness” refers to the ability of the hamstring muscle to absorb shock and rebound. Dropping a golf ball onto concrete is an example of stiffness, it immediately rebounds off the surface. Stiffness and Hamstring Strength are in my experience the most important factors in HSI. Almost every person I see with a HSI had history of tight Hamstrings or weak hamstrings. This is even more evident in re-injuries where player return to play without the proper Hamstring strength or Quadriceps / Hamstrings imbalances.

  • Finally, Previous hamstring strain is a very good indicator of potential for future injury (Crosier 2004).

Secondary Causes

  • Poor running mechanics. This consists primarily of overstriding or poor pelvic control, which puts the hamstrings in a vulnerable position at ground contact.

  • Improper warm-up. Your warm-up must be active and dynamic to prepare the hamstring muscles for the forces involved.

  • Inappropriate training loads. Your hamstrings are primarily fast twitch Type II fibres that fatigue quickly. High-speed work should be done early in the workout, as close to warm-up as possible to avoid fatigue. High Speed Running should be part of the weekly training and not too many teams do this and almost no amateur soccer player do this.

  • Lower back pathology. Abnormalities of the lumbar spine or poor pelvic control that can cause nerve dysfunction and subsequent muscle weakness can predispose you to injury.

  • Playing surfaces. A wet slippery surface will put more strain on the hamstring due to slipping.

  • Fatigue (neural and local muscle). If you follow the European Soccer competitions you realized how many games are being played in a season. Teams that advance to Quarter, Semi or Final games of their Local Tournaments ( Copa del Rey , FA Cup, Italian Cup) or UEFA - Euro League plus their own domestic leagues will accumulate tons of games, usually back to back , plus Summer competitions where the player continue training with their National teams, If you add the increased intensity and physical demands of a soccer match play over the last decade it is not a surprise that HSI are the most common injuries in Soccer. For Adult amateur and also Youth Travel-Team soccer players there are similitudes, with Weekend tournaments that force the players to compete in back to back games with less than 24 hs recovery or even play two full-length games in the same day. My experience is that Muscle Strain or Injuries ( also most of the other injuries) occur when we exceed our body’s capacity and overload is the most common one

To be aware that new ways of rehabilitating HSI are in place as we speak to see if we, as medical professional can impact the number of HSIs and the length of the recovery.


  • Hamstring Injuries (HSI) are the second most common muscular injury in soccer players (quadriceps is #1)

  • Causes for HSI can be primary or secondary

  • Proper Hamstring Strength, length and proper core function are necessary High Spped Running and Healthy Hamstring musculature

  • Fatigue also plays a big role in HSI

Do you want to find out more about what you can do to get better from your Hamstring Strain?

Click the link below to get access to our PDF E-Book

where you'll find valuable information about Muscle Injuries in general

and Hamstring Injuries in Particular


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