A common complaint from footballers is that the calf and hamstring muscles are continually tight despite stretching on a regular basis.
Clearly having freedom of movement is an important factor for performance but also in reducing the risk of an injury. Certainly many of those whom I see with recurring hamstring or calf issues tell me about this persisting state of tightness that can often extend to the buttocks and low back.
An on-going tightness tells me that the body (controlled by the brain) is protecting something. There is a perception of a threat, a potential ‘danger’ that requires appropriate action, in this case tightening up an area to reduce movement. This is very sensible when we have a new injury, however not so useful when there is nothing to actually protect.
Unfortunately, sometimes the body perceives a danger, i.e. recognises a particular movement or situation that has previously been a problem, and it can respond in the same way as if there is actually an injury. And it feels the same! Many people I have seen with a repeat hamstring injury demonstrate no signs of an injury, e.g./ inflammation: swelling, redness, heat.
What can we do? Firstly we need to listen to the story and then examine the affected and influential parts of the body. Several useful tests include a hamstring length assessment and a neurodynamic evaluation. The former tells us about the flexibility of the muscle and whether there is sensitivity provoked by the strain. Neurodynamics is concerned with the health and mobility of the nervous system. A normal nerve moves as we move but can become sensitive through injury. This can be tested with a slump or straight leg raise manoeuvre.
On determining the reason for the persisting tightness, a treatment and training programme is designed and delivered to mobilise the nerve and muscle tissue. The hands-on treatment frees the restricted tissues and the exercises build upon this mobility. These exercises have to be performed regularly and consistently for the greatest benefit.
Developing performance has a number of facets that are both physical and mental. With an on-going tightness, niggling aches and pains are common, sometimes leading to an injury. Tackling this problem enables freer and more skilled movement that enhances our ability and reduces the risk of straining muscles.
Calf, Hamstring, Injury Time, Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation, Richmond Stace