Given the prevalence of hamstring injuries in football, a rehabilitation program that effectively promotes muscle tissue repair and functional recovery is paramount to minimize reinjury risk and optimize player performance and availability. This study aimed to assess the concurrent effectiveness of administering an individualized and multifactorial criteria-based algorithm (rehabilitation algorithm [RA]) on hamstring injury rehabilitation in comparison with using a general rehabilitation protocol (RP).
Implementing a double-blind randomized controlled trial approach, two equal groups of 24 football players (48 total) completed either an RA group or a validated RP group 5 d after an acute hamstring injury. Within 6 months after return to sport, six hamstring reinjuries occurred in RP versus one injury in RA (relative risk = 6, 90% confidence interval = 1-35; clinical inference: very likely beneficial effect). The average duration of return to sport was possibly quicker (effect size = 0.34 ± 0.42) in RP (23.2 ± 11.7 d) compared with RA (25.5 ± 7.8 d) (-13.8%, 90% confidence interval = -34.0% to 3.4%; clinical inference: possibly small effect). At the time to return to sport, RA players showed substantially better 10-m time, maximal sprinting speed, and greater mechanical variables related to speed (i.e., maximum theoretical speed and maximal horizontal power) than the RP.
Although return to sport was slower, male football players who underwent an individualized, multifactorial, criteria-based algorithm with a performance- and primary risk factor-oriented training program from the early stages of the process markedly decreased the risk of reinjury compared with a general protocol where long-length strength training exercises were prioritized.