Every day, we rely on our lower limbs for walking, climbing and running. Overexertion during these daily activities or in sports activities can cause strain to the muscles. SPD’s physiotherapist Gerda de Jong shares some tips to prevent adductor, quadriceps and hamstring strains in this issue of sports injury.
What is Adductor Strain?
Adductor strain, or groin strain, occurs when one or more of the adductor muscles is/are over-stretched or torn.
The adductors are a set of five muscles located at the inner thigh that are used when you pull your legs together. You could run the risks of straining these muscles when you engage in activities that involve sudden jumping or changing of directions, for instance, sprinting, rugby, horseback riding and hurdling.
With an adductor strain, you will feel pain in the groin or inner thigh along with swelling or bruising. Bringing your knees together and raising your knee will be painful, and so will climbing and descending stairs.
What is Quadriceps Strain?
Tightness, pain or swelling in the thigh, inability to walk properly or bend fully at the knee are symptoms of thigh strain, or quadriceps strain.
The quadriceps muscles are a set of four muscles located at the front of the thigh which work to straighten the knee. When these muscles are tired, lack flexibility or strength, are not properly warmed up before a vigorous activity or when the hamstring muscles at the back of the leg overpower the quadriceps, you could experience a strain in this area.
Quadriceps strain is a common injury in sports that involve running, such as hurdles, long jump, basketball, soccer, football and rugby.
What is Hamstring Strain?
The hamstring muscles are a group of three long muscles that you engage when pulling back your legs or when bending your knees. You could injure these muscles when you run, kick, jump or when doing quick start and stop actions. It is common to hear of a hamstring strain among those who play soccer, baseball, basketball and various track and field activities.
The risk of sustaining a hamstring strain is greater if you do not warm up properly before exercising, your quadriceps are tight or if your gluteus muscles are weak, causing your hamstrings to have to work harder.
When you pull your hamstring, you will feel a sudden sharp pain at the back of the leg. Your muscles may go into spasm, and swelling and bruising may develop. If the strain is very bad, you may even feel a gap in the muscle.
Treatment and Prevention
To help minimise the swelling, rest, apply ice to the area for about 20 minutes. This can be repeated three to four times per day. You may also want to compress your thigh with a bandage or tape. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to help reduce pain and swelling. A physiotherapist can help you to increase the mobility of the affected muscle and restore strength through specific exercises. These exercises can be started as soon as the pain has reduced.
You can reduce the risk of getting a muscle strain by taking the following precautions:
- Warm up before starting to exercise. A slow 5 or 10 minute jog and some light stretching will prepare your body for the work out.
- Wear proper shoes that support the foot and absorb the shocks if you are running or jogging. Shock absorbing insoles may help to prevent injuries better.
- Gearing up with external supports, such as knee straps and thigh support, have been proven to be preventive.
- Strengthen all lower limb muscles to prevent muscle imbalances. Quadriceps, adductors, hamstrings and gluteus muscles should work in balance together.
- Stretch after the exercise to allow the muscles to relax and regain the pre-exercise length.
Do not rush and do too much, too soon. Allow your body the time to heal and prevent further injuries!
- Muscle Strain, WebMD
- Injuries to Lower Limb, Sports Therapy UK, 2011
- Prevention of Sports Injuries: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials, Aaltonen S, Karjalainen H, Heinonen A, Parkkari J, Kujala UM, Arch Intern Med,2007