Background Hamstring injury is the single most common injury in European professional football and, therefore, time to return and secondary prevention are of particular concern.
Objective To compare the effectiveness of two rehabilitation protocols after acute hamstring injury in Swedish elite football players by evaluating time needed to return to full participation in football team-training and availability for match selection.
Study design Prospective randomised comparison of two rehabilitation protocols.
Methods Seventy-five football players with an acute hamstring injury, verified by MRI, were randomly assigned to one of two rehabilitation protocols. Thirty-seven players were assigned to a protocol emphasising lengthening exercises, L-protocol and 38 players to a protocol consisting of conventional exercises, C-protocol. The outcome measure was the number of days to return to full-team training and availability for match selection. Reinjuries were registered during a period of 12 months after return.
Results Time to return was significantly shorter for the players in the L-protocol, mean 28 days (1SD±15, range 8–58 days), compared with the C-protocol, mean 51 days (1SD±21, range 12–94 days). Irrespective of protocol, stretching-type of hamstring injury took significantly longer time to return than sprinting-type, L-protocol: mean 43 vs 23 days and C-protocol: mean 74 vs 41 days, respectively. The L-protocol was significantly more effective than the C-protocol in both injury types. One reinjury was registered, in the C-protocol.
Conclusions A rehabilitation protocol emphasising lengthening type of exercises is more effective than a protocol containing conventional exercises in promoting time to return in Swedish elite football.
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