“Hamstrung” Athletes Should Sleep With Their Injured Leg Bent
“Hamstrung” Athletes Should Sleep With Their Injured Leg Bent

Training Room Tips: Sleep With the Leg Bent When Healing the Hamstrings

Dick Moss, Editor

Do you have athletes with hamstring pulls? If so, the way they sleep can affect how quickly they recovery. In fact, sleeping with the injured leg in a bent position will allow a pulled hamstring to recover more quickly.

Why Keep the Leg Bent?
This advice runs contrary to previous practice, in which the injured muscle was stretched as soon as possible.

New research and practical trials by physiotherapists such as Darren Jermyn at the Laurentian Hospital Sports Clinic in Sudbury, Ontario,  have shown that the muscle should be stretched as little as possible during the acute phase of the injury.

It's like having a cut on your finger. If you constantly stretch the cut so the edges of the wound move apart, the scab breaks and healing takes longer. Muscle pulls are similar—the torn muscle fibers must be allowed to rejoin so they can heal.

In the case of a hamstring pull, a great way to speed healing—in conjunction with icing—is to keep the knee bent while sleeping.

This prevents stretching of the hamstrings, since the muscles are relaxed when the leg is bent and taut when the leg is straight. It allows the injured muscles fibres to rejoin, and reduces tension in the muscle fibres for better bloodflow, reduced pain levels and faster healing.

This treatment of icing, sleeping with the leg bent and avoidance of stretching should be maintained for the first 48 hours.

One warning: the athlete will likely awaken feeling stiff, which is a normal part of the healing process. When this occurs, they should resist the urge to stretch. And, as always, this treatment should be performed in conjunction with a qualified health professional.

Reference: Darren Jermyn (BScPT).
Darren Jermyn is a physiotherapist and track coach in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

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