Is it just me or does it seem like there are more and more hamstring injuries slowing and sidelining professional athletes?
In particular, football and baseball players, who aren’t in as much constant motion as hockey and basketball players.
How often have you seen a baseball player take off for first base, get almost to the bag, then grab the back of his leg and come to a painful stop?
Or a wide receiver explode off the line of scrimmage, dash down the field and then, at the end of the play, limp off to the sideline?
Estimated full recovery time: Six weeks.
In the NFL, that’s almost half a season.
Chances are, some of these injuries could be avoided if said athletes practiced a little offseason (and possibly inseason) preventive care — namely, a running program.
The main problem, it would appear, is that these athletes focus too much on strength training and not enough on flexibility.
Hamstrings are sort of their Achilles heel.
By creating a running program, athletes could be able to handle the stress of stop and go, fast acceleration movement.
Bob Kaehler, the esteemed former World Champion/Olympic rower, coach and physical therapist who resides in Holland, works with NFL athletes and has first-hand knowledge of the situation.
“A percentage of those guys, when the offseason comes, they probably don’t do a lot,’’ Kaehler says.
“That’s probably just human nature. But you certainly want to continue to run year-round and not stop cold.’’
When your favorite Phillie or Eagle pulls up lame with a hamstring injury, the usual reaction is: “Oh, it will only be a week or two.’’ But actually, no. As mentioned, most hamstring injuries require a recovery time of at least month or more.
“I think all these guys are working on explosive power in the weight room,’’ Kaehler says. “But it’s really only addressing quads, glutes and low back.
“They’re really doing a lot less on the flexor muscles – like hip flexors. Hardly anyone spends time on those. They have power in that first step and the hamstrings just can’t handle the load.
“My observation in having tested more than 2,000 athletes – a couple NFL guys, college, high school athletes. You tend to find that those muscles are weak.’’
Can a consistent running program help address the problem?
“Those flexor muscles are really important for a balanced system,’’ Kaehler says. “So if you’re not running, you’re really not using your hamstrings all that much. The exercises they’re doing really aren’t targeting them that much.
“Again, this is a general observation. I’m sure there are guys out there who do more, who have balance, who do run and they don’t get hurt.’’
As athletes get bigger, stronger, faster, the number of hamstring injuries seems to be on the rise.
In football, there probably should be more emphasis on flexibility before building muscles.
“If you’re running in the offseason, you’re not thinking about pushing somebody over,’’ says Kaehler, who competed in the U.S. heavyweight boat at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics. “You’re just working on natural running mechanics.’’
It only makes sense that athletes should address these issues, both offseason and inseason.
Even hockey players use running as a valuable training tool. Past Flyers such as Rod Brind’Amour, Mark Recchi and Eric Desjardins were outstanding distance runners and almost never got hurt. Brind’Amour holds the Flyers’ ironman record with 484 consecutive games.
Current Flyer Scott Laughton says he incorporates 40-meter sprints into his offseason regimen.
“We do quick sprints,’’ Laughton says. “It helps with quickness on the ice. The first couple strides. It’s good for football, for any sport. In the past, you did a lot of dead lifting but the game has changed now.’’
These days, hardly anyone shows up for a training camp “out of shape.’’
“If you show up to do all that explosive stuff and you’re not in shape, you’re going to get hurt,’’ Kaehler says. “There’s no way around it.
“The guys who do get hurt probably aren’t doing enough running year-round, they don’t keep up.
“And you can look at a team and the number of hamstring pulls and groin pulls and you can look at the correlation between the success of a team and how many injuries there were.’’
Like football in particular.
“I was looking at all the injuries to all the teams in the NFL,’’ Kaehler says. “Hamstring pulls, groin pulls. The guys on the teams who won the Super Bowl had less injuries.
“You’re not going to the Super Bowl if you have a third of your team sitting in the training room every week.’’
At the end of the day, any sort of running program would be a benefit to the pro athlete regarding hamstring problems.
“Definitely, any kind of movement, cardio power movement would help them,’’ Kaehler says. “Just to maintain the integrity of the tissue, the tendon strength, flexibility, things that are important. Things that take a lot longer to come around. A tendon might take 12 to 16 weeks.
“If you’re running year-round, that’s a critical element in maintaining longevity in a sport and minimizing the risk of getting injured.’’
Hallman sets personal record
Last week we wrote about Langhorne’s Steve Hallman, who shared some training tips about a faster marathon for all runners.
On Sunday, Hallman showed he knows what he’s talking about by running a personal-best 2:26.34 at the TCS Marathon in Amsterdam, Holland.
He took 37th place and finished second U.S. citizen.
Congratulations on a great performance. And by the way, Steve is getting closer to that 2:19 Olympic “B’’ qualifying standard. Seven minutes is a lot but based on his recent 1:09 half-marathon performance, not out of the realm of possibility.
Race for Recovery 5K (Brain Injury Association), 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.biapa.org
Fall Harvest 10K/5K, Doylestown. Contact www.scoogieevents.com