Hamstring is one of the most common injuries suffered by sportspersons, especially sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers. Likewise, it can be avoided if we follow a strict training regimen and strength training and flexibility programme.
Though I won't be able to comment on the severity of Zaheer's injury, but even a minor hamstring strain takes at least two to three weeks to recover. If it's a Grade 2 injury, recovery can go up to three months. That's because the muscle needs to repair and gain strength. Since it's a critical muscle that gives power and needs full stretchability, under dynamic conditions expected from a pace bowler, the strengthening is important both for hamstring and its antagonist muscle quadriceps both acting on knee and hip.
That he broke down during a match shows that he lacked match fitness and was not properly evaluated after he came back from the ankle injury. To recover, one needs an extensive rehabilitation programme and has to be constantly monitored before training. Now, training doesn't mean he is ready to play a match. Bowl a few odd overs at full pace during nets and check on how much the muscle can take load by Isokinetic (strength and speed) evaluation.
Zaheer knows it is a recurring injury. Any sports physician dreads this and it is called "Ham's enigma of sportspersons". A bit of strain, the injury will return and rehab is a nightmare. The management must ensure that he reaches optimal match fitness before being allowed to take the field.
I don't know what kind of a recovery programme India follow. But one or two physios are not enough for a team game. Since cricketers live out of a suitcase, recovery becomes all the more integral.
Hydro-therapy, yogic exercises, massage, sauna, steam, are just some of the ways through which one can recover. Of course, a mental strength trainer is a must.
The programme needs to be place specific because the players need to adapt to the conditions quickly. Fitness drills, flexibility and agility work outs and strength training equipment and recovery tools, along with inputs on dietetics, have to be ensured.
Again, cricketers don't have a strong base when it comes to physical conditioning and strength training at the grass-root level. So, recurring injuries keep haunting them.
The writer is former head of Deptt of sports medicine and science at NIS, Patiala.