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Twang! He’s Done his Hammy

That sudden pain in the back of your thigh isn’t something you can just run off. Stand by for at least two weeks recovery and maybe a lot more.

This past weekend Brazilian footballer Roberto Firmino had to hobble off at half time in Liverpool’s English Premier League game with Chelsea.

“Serious? I don’t know. Serious enough to take him off, yes,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “Bobby felt his hamstring,” he continued. “It doesn’t look too serious but you never know before you have a scan, which will happen tomorrow.”

These scans come in the form of MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) visuals that are able to show the extent of soft tissue injuries. These days, sports injuries of this nature where a muscle has been torn are categorised in terms of their severity as follows:
  • Grade 1: Mild overstretching of individual muscle fibres (less than 5% of fibres) that cause a minimal loss of strength and motion;
  • Grade 2: moderate stretching of the muscle fibres where some tears are involved; and
  • Grade 3: Severe tearing or rupture of a muscle or tendon.
Moderate muscle strains or tears can usually be treated without medical intervention. Rest and (when able) some moderate stretching and strength work will be a big help. Normal activities can be resumed once a full range of motion returns without accompanying pain. But easy does it. The quicker you get back into action, the more likely you’ll re-injure yourself.

Moderate tears may require physical therapy, particularly if you’re desperate to resume regular activities as quickly as possible.  A severe tear that requires surgical repair can take months or even longer to heal. Tennis great Serena Williams suffered a hamstring injury at Wimbledon in early July and it’s been far from a quick return to action.  “After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the U.S. Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring,” she wrote on last week on Instagram. That tournament got underway this week in New York, meaning that even after two months of the best treatment money can buy, she clearly hasn’t recovered well enough to take part at Flushing Meadows, having already had to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics.

It’s an injury that you clearly can’t take lightly. Former Liverpool and England footballer Michael Owen said in his blog: “My hamstring gave way in an away game at Leeds at the tender age of 19 and from that moment on, my career as a professional footballer was compromised.” In an interview with BT Sport, he added: “I was petrified of running into a channel. I just knew I was going to tear a muscle. The worst thing about it is your instinct is to do what you have done all your life. But you start thinking: ‘Oh no, don’t.'”

The first thing to do if you feel that sudden pain at the back of your leg is immediately stop what you’re doing and apply ice as quickly as you can, while compressing the painful area. Elevate your leg during recovery and take anti-inflammatory medication. In the days that follow, when you feel like some progress has been made and the pain has subsided, stretching and strengthening will get you back into action, if your doctor or physiotherapist recommends it. You could also team up with The Gym Pod to get a specific rehabilitation programme and work towards not re-injuring yourself.  
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