COMMUNITY: Check those hamstrings

Health tips from Cody Scharf

JR Ogden
Published: March 15 2014 | 11:00 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:38 am in

Editor’s note; Dr. Cody Scharf, DC is the owner of Thrive Spine and Sport, a chiropractic and soft tissue clinic focusing on sport and overuse injuries in Cedar Rapids. Scharf is a graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic and certified through Integrative Diagnosis for the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries.

By Cody Scharf, community contributor

Spring is around the corner and track already has started. For the avid runner and athlete, we all know what that means — tis’ the season for pulled hamstrings and an assortment of other injuries affecting the low back, hips, and knees.

Close to 70 percent of all runners during the season will develop some sort of injury from running. The source of most of these are weak and “tight” hamstrings.

It is no wonder the hamstrings are one of the leading causes of pain. The hamstrings cross and control the hip and the knee joints.

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles, which act together to extend the leg straight back and bend the knee. These three muscles play a crucial role in transferring the power between the hips and knee during walking, running and jumping.

Since the main actions of the hamstrings are to bend the knee and extend the leg back, they are vulnerable to injury during the opposite movements. While running, this would be when the leg is swinging forward and is straight. This action requires the hamstring to lengthen and stretch. If the hamstring is unable to stretch as required, an injury can occur.

The good thing in all of this is there are three tests you already know that can determine how likely you are of injury.

The first is the toe touch. Stand up, feet shoulder-width apart, bend forward and try and touch the floor. You should at the very least be able to touch the tips of your fingers with the ground.

The second is a knee to chest test. Lie flat on your back, grab one knee and try to bring the front part of your leg flat against your chest. You should be able to do this without the opposite leg or hip coming off the floor while it being pain and symptom free.

Finally, the last test is the lunge. Stand straight up, bring one leg as far forward as possible, try to maintain an upright position and push off the forward leg to return to the standing position. This motion should be easy and controlled. You should not have any forward flexion of the upper body, pain or balance issues.

Some of you are probably saying “I’ve never been able to touch my toes” or “I can’t do a lunge.” If you cannot perform any of these tests properly, you are far more likely to develop some kind of injury this season.

These three tests are basic functional movements and you should be able to do them. Start a routine of stretching, foam rolling and hamstring exercises like the good morning and leg curls to help with flexibility and strength. If after two weeks of this routine, pain or lack of flexibility remains, treatment is the next step. Treatment should be aimed at removing any dysfunction that is limiting your flexibility and strength.

  • For more information email Scharf at or visit

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