Cricket involves a lot of sudden, explosive stop/start movements and rapid changes of direction. The result is that the hamstring tendons are often strained. They can also be pulled when reaching for a ball, sprinting between wickets or in the field, slipping in the run-up while bowling, or while trying to decelerate in the bowling action.
An acute muscle strain occurs when a muscle is overloaded and a number of the muscle fibres become torn, and inflammation and tissue breakdown occurs. An acute hamstring strain is associated with an acute overload of the muscle, occurring during batting, bowling or fielding, especially in a pressure situation.
Factors causing a chronic hamstring strain would be muscle imbalances, lower back inflexibility or pain, inappropriate training, fatigue, and inadequate rehabilitation/return from a traumatic hamstring, knee, calf, or lower back injury.
There are numerous risk factors for developing this injury, the most likely being a previous injury to the hamstring muscle, weakness in the muscles at the back of the leg and pelvis, poor hamstring flexibility, or when the abdominal and pelvic stability muscles are switched off/inconsistent, and the hamstrings try to compensate by increasing their workload. This is a very important point, as it emphasizes the importance of rehabilitating the hamstring muscle adequately when first injured, to prevent recurrence.
A chronic hamstring tear is an injury common to many sports. Cricket is no different.
It can also involve an underlying “nerve problem” and should be assessed by a physiotherapist.
Management focuses on rehabilitation of the hamstring and surrounding muscles. It is important that this rehabilitation be sport specific and that the muscle is retrained, using similar speeds and loads required when playing cricket.
Content reviewed and enhanced by Dr Joe de Beer, a well-known orthopaedic specialist, and T-J Malherbe, a physiotherapist. Both are from Cape Town.