The choice of rehabilitation protocol is very important for professional football players suffering a hamstring injury. This is by far the most common injury sustained in this athlete group, which makes it essential to choose a protocol that minimises the time before return to training and play and improves prevention. A group of Swedish researchers has carried out a study with these objectives in mind, establishing that a rehabilitation programme focused on lengthening exercises delivers better results than one comprising conventional exercises.
The research team, led by Carl M. Askling of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, conducted its study with the help of 75 Swedish elite footballers with an acute hamstring injury. The results have been published in the current issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In the prospective randomised study, 37 of the injured players were brought back into shape through a rehabilitation programme with an emphasis on lengthening exercises (L-protocol), while 38 were assigned a regime emphasising conventional exercises (C-protocol). The researchers compared the number of days it took for the players to resume training with their teams and their availability for selection. Throughout the year following the return to play, the researchers kept a record of repeat injuries.
The comparison of the two programmes showed that the L-protocol resulted in much shorter time to return: the mean number of days was 28 as opposed to 51 days for the group assigned the C-protocol. In both cases, however, hamstring injuries of the stretching type kept the players off-field for a significantly longer time than sprinting-type injuries. The L-protocol was found be far more effective for the rehabilitation of both injury types. There was one repeat injury and that occurred in the C-protocol group.