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Hamstring Injuries, Rehab and Recovery

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Six-time US Open champion, Serena Williams, withdrew from this year’s competition due to a torn hamstring. Her injury happened at a first-round match in Wimbledon in June, and her plans to return for the Western and Southern Open were spoiled as the injury persists.

Serena Williams, 40, stated, “After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring.”

We’re rooting Serena Williams on as she heals toward a full recovery. We had the opportunity to speak with one of our expert physical therapists, Julian Richards, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS , about hamstring injuries, and what rehab and recovery might look like for Serena Williams, and anyone with this type of injury. Read more for Julian Richards’ expert advice.

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What is a hamstring injury?

Hamstring injuries are common among athletes, especially if you play tennis, soccer, football or basketball. Dancers and runners can be affected as well. They occur when you strain or pull one of your hamstring muscles — the group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh.

How do hamstring injuries typically occur?

Richards: A hamstring injury can occur if any of the tendons or muscles are stretched beyond their limit. They often occur with sudden, explosive movements, such as sprinting, lunging or jumping. But they can also occur more gradually, or during slower movements that overstretch or extensively lengthen your hamstring. They may occur in activities involving high-speed running, high kicking, sliding tackle or doing the splits.

Who do hamstring injuries tend to affect the most?

Richards: The number one individual this type of injury affects is someone with a previous history of a hamstring injury. Studies suggest risk increases with age. Athletes older than 23 years are reportedly 1.3 to 3.9 times more likely to suffer a hamstring strain, with athletes 25 years or older between 2.8 and 4.4 times more likely to suffer injury. Also, those competing in higher levels of competition, like Serena Williams, seem to be at higher risk.

What kind of treatment is given?

Richards: We use the following treatment methods for hamstring injuries. These therapies are what Serena Williams might be undergoing during her rehab and recovery process:

  • Instruction on prevention strategies to reduce hamstring injury risk
  • Strength training with a particular focus on eccentric strength development
  • Plyometric training Isokinetic strengthening are also beneficial
  • Functional rehabilitation program
  • Progressive agility and trunk stabilization exercises
  • Running drills and sport-specific drills
  • Scar tissue management/soft tissue mobilization and myofascial release
  • Stretching when appropriate
What is the typical recovery time for a hamstring injury

Richards: Most hamstring tears are caused by athletic injuries. Typically, partial tears heal in 4 to 8 weeks, while complete tears take about 3 months. We typically suggest a 2 to 6 week sporting absence, depending on the extent of the injury of course.

How can your team help patients with these injuries?

Richards: Here’s what a treatment plan might look like at AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab:

  • Comprehensive evaluation to assess the extent of the hamstring injury and its potential effects on the surrounding body structures influencing return to play (RTP)
  • Skilled rehabilitation focused on returning to play safely via functional strengthening, sport-specific training interventions
  • Sport-specific testing to assess RTP and provide strategies to RTP safely
  • Increase overall strength and function to reduce injury recurrence
When can athletes get back on the court or field post-recovery?

Richards: Most athletes can expect to get back to their sport safely upon completion of a sport-specific field/court return to play testing, and when their level of pain, strength, endurance and function normalizes.

Do you have any advice for healing and/or avoiding these types of injuries?

Richards: My primary advice would be to focus on prevention and to improve eccentric hamstring strength. Balance quad to hamstring strength/power ratios, stretch routinely, warm-up properly and cross-train to avoid overuse injuries.

We’re Here to Help You Heal

Thank you so much to Julian Richards for sharing his expertise on hamstring injuries. He and his team of skilled experts are here to help you recover from these injuries and many more at AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab. Click here to find out more about how they can provide the personalized experience you deserve.  

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