Do you know how many days you’ll need to recover from a hamstring pull? Do you know how to prevent a hamstring pull? What about the difference between a tweak vs. a pull? The hamstrings can often get overlooked in strengthening & conditioning in many sports. Today I am going to educate you on hamstring pulls, tweaks, treatments, prevention & recovery. This is the 2nd post in this soccer injury series. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
What is a hamstring pull?
You will know it when it happens!
A hamstring pull is an injury on the back of the leg that usually happens to athletes in Track, Basketball, Soccer, Football & Dance.
This injury is common in sports where players have to do lots of Sprints or Jumps.
The voice of experience
There are 3 Hamstring Muscles:
- Biceps femoris.
Some Doctors or physical therapists (PT) might tell you they are the same, but most doctors have not played the sport or pulled their hamstring. So I want to weigh in my experience to help further your knowledge.
Remember: just because someone is a PT or Athletic Trainer – or even a Dr. – does not mean they are always right. Especially Athletic Trainers!
Everyone starts somewhere. The “rookies” haven’t yet built up the experience.
Educate yourself before, during and after injuries happen, so you can protect yourself.
10 day treatment plan for a hamstring pull
Note: I am not a Doctor, a PT or an Athletic Trainer. But I have been treated by many & played more soccer than any of these professionals, so I just want you to know from a players view. Hope you enjoy!
- Day 1: Do Nothing but ice & elevation, laying on your back. You can put your leg up straight against a wall.
- Days 2-3: No play whatsoever for 2 days; only light rehab. If you can get electric stem great, but if not, try to get in a gym where you can ride a stationary bike very low strength for 5 minutes to warm it up. Then strengthen it & all of the muscles around it with light weight [like a 5 pound ankle weight] doing 3 reps. If you have a Bosu Ball like this one to use to balance and build core & leg strength. After you are finished, ice and elevate.
- Days 4-5: Warm up on bike 5 – 15 minutes. Then do ankle weight training or use Thera-bands. This not only strengthens the injured muscle but the muscles all around it. Step ups, which is a box (knee high) which you step up on & get your knee up with opposite foot, do for 20 total step-ups: 10 each leg, 3 reps each. Between each set of reps do side-lunges. Jog 5 minutes, followed by Light Passing Drills, moving side-to-side 10 yards. Keep your Core Strong while making the pass and changing direction. This will keep your leg from having to do everything.
- Days 5-6: All the same things as Day 4-5 but add Jumping (5-10 Times), like you would be jumping for a header. Also add 20 yard Sprints at 80-90% but make sure you don’t feel it tighten up on you or it’s just not time for sprints and you will need to wait a day or more.
- Days 7-10: Get a Good warm up before the team practice & then you should be good to practice. If you feel 100% you will be good to play games. Just make sure you are 100% if you can. If not, you might want to wrap it or put this kind of KT Tape.
If you don’t treat the rehab like you should, you can keep irritating the injury! This mistake could result in more weeks hobbling around.
Tweaks or Pulls [What’s the Difference]?
A soccer player calls a ‘tweak’ just where you barely felt it and you know to sit out and treat it so you are better in a few days.
A ‘pull’ is where you really felt it and it even hurts to walk.
When you pull a hamstring muscle, expect to be out of game play for over 1 week (7-10 days).
Sit out of practice for a few days because the jumping, sprinting and defending is what could cause further damage.
When is it serious?
Partial Tears or a Complete Tear are more serious.
In my experience playing pro soccer for 7 years & in 15+ Countries, I can’t remember teammates or opponents tearing their hamstring. I know it can happen – & does – but it doesn’t happen to soccer players very much.
Tears happen more to someone falling off a ladder or slipping on ice. A complete tear will most likely result in surgery.
What age do players get hamstring pulls?
Most of these types of injuries will be high school, college & pro but some as young as 10.
I personally never pulled a muscle till I was a sophomore in college. It was in a game and I was sprinting back to chase a through ball. Hadn’t experienced this yet, but when it happened I knew it was a pull and was done for the day.
You just can’t play or even run when you really pull a hamstring.
Kids who are getting minor pulls is because of 5 main reasons (see next subtitle)
5 reasons younger athletes are getting muscle pulls
- Doing too many sports activities, with no rest.
- people get injured at young ages is hereditary.
- Lack of good warm up and stretch.
- Lack of body weight strength exercises. You can do these at home with no equipment.
A good light warm-up is vital, so hopefully you are doing that. Then stretching before fast intense workouts.
I have seen coaches start off a session on the speed ladder making the kids go as fast as they can.
That’s like starting your car during a freezing Winter morning and immediately pushing the gas to the floor.
The car will eventually “get hurt” and be in the shop.
Same with the human body, so make sure you get a warm-up on your own before practice starts if your team doesn’t warm-up good.
College & Pro Athletes are the ones who suffer from this most, but now days kids as young as 10 years old are getting pulls. High School is common for this to happen because players are becoming adults body size wise & their muscles are not as flexible as they once were.
When or How do players pull hamstrings?
Usually when a player is not game fit or they are overloaded.
To be honest it’s usually a mix of the two.
For example: Coming off an injury where you fight through your rehab, you then join your team.
You go through several practices & then in a game or scrimmage it happens. Games & scrimmages require you to go 100% in everything, making it easier to get injured.
This happens when a player is sprinting or jumping as this stretches the muscle more than it’s used to.
How I pulled my muscles playing college & pro
The first time I pulled my hamstring was in college,my junior year. It was because I just came back from a lower abdominal surgery, which is very common for college and pro soccer players. In a game I was jumping up for a header and I felt it pull.
The 2nd time I was in Miami, FL on a trial when I was 26 years old. I had not played for over 4 months due to getting released from a team in the off-season.
I had been on trials in Denmark and the Faroe Islands, so when I went to Miami, we were practicing on turf which is also going to cause more injury. Same as my first pull, I was sprinting for a ball.
Difference from a Tweak & Pull
I pulled my hamstring once in college and twice as a pro & once as an ‘Old Guy’. 🙂 Now, before I tell you this story, if someone like Romario, Larry Fitzgerald or Kobe Bryant reads this, I know I’m going to look weak. Props to guys like that – who played so long!
A short time ago (when I was 35-ish, which is young but at the same time not :-)), I was training some of our high school age boys. These boys said they could outrun me. So, without a warm-up on my part (see where this is going?), we raced half the length of the field (60 yards). I barely won & I was shocked it was that close, because I had always been fast, but I hadn’t done a sprint in 2-3 years + at that time I didn’t ever run. I felt my hamstring get tight instantly & kind of warn me, so it was a small tweak.
BUT one player said it was a tie, so being the competitor I am, we raced again, but this time I pulled my hamstring. Honestly was embarrassing and a wake up call that I need to start running again. So now I do and I feel better now than when I was 35. So point of my story is continue to stay fit.
Remember when I was telling you about the difference of a TWEAK & PULL? The 1st Race I felt a tweak and knew I shouldn’t race again. So if you ever feel the tweak make sure you tell your coach you need to stop playing. Unless it’s a Super Important Game. 🙂
What does the PAIN feel like?
Tweaks don’t hurt too bad; it’s more like your muscle feels sticky & tight inside your leg and just doesn’t feel normal.
A pull actually hurts like burning/stinging feeling at first & then it starts to feel more ache/light burn.
Maybe you tried to do a pull up or hang from something before? It’s almost like you feel your skin & muscle stretch with a slight burn that doesn’t hurt, but your body is talking to you. Well imagine that pain actually being intense. That’s how I can describe a pull.
What can you do to prevent a hamstring pull?
Stay Fit: This is the soccer term used world-wide so get used to it. Being ‘Fit’ means you are game ready. Not just able to practice, but able to play in a game & have the stamina and muscle strength to perform to the most of your ability.
I personally never got a hamstring pull, unless I was just not fit.
Meaning, I was coming back from an injury or it was the start of a season & wasn’t game fit to play 90 minutes yet.
So be careful when you are coming off an injury. Many times players end up getting a different injury.
Don’t Play too Many Games [Extra Leagues Season After Season]: Games are what beats up the body the most because you are chasing, cutting, falling, or jumping – all at 100% for long periods of time.
Too many young player now days (or more, their parents) think that they have to keep up or do more than everyone else to stay or climb to the top. At age 11 you don’t need to be putting your kids in 2 different leagues, Extra Skills and Speed & Agility at the same time.
Train More Proper: Get proper training like technical work or finishing drills.
Technical Training is not going to beat up the body like other training methods such as Speed/Agility/Strength.
You have to use Conditioning & Strength like you would maintaining your car. Get a few weeks or months of maintenance on your body, but don’t do it all year long.
Soccer is already offering lots of these elements & your body needs the right amount of each, including rest.
Note: There has to be the right amount of these, not too much.