NAME: Lindsay Davenport
SPORT: Professional women's tennis player
POSITION: Ranked second in the world on the WTA tour
INJURY: Sore hamstring and groin
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Baseball: Dan Kolb (left hamstring strain), Texas Rangers; Greg Colburn (right hamstring strain), Arizona Diamondbacks; Basketball: Calvin Booth (strained right hamstring), Vancouver Grizzlies; Hockey: Doug Zmolek (hamstring pull), Chicago Blackhawks.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Although the exact time of injury isn't known, it may have happened when Davenport was sliding or reaching for a low passing shot to her side during her semifinal win over Jennifer Capriati at the Australia Open in January. Despite the injury, the 23-year-old Davenport, with her left thigh wrapped, beat Martina Hingis in straight sets (6-1, 7-5) in the tournament finals.
The Australian Open's medical staff advised her to sit out the next tournament, to prevent making the injury worse if she did not rest her hamstring properly. She did, withdrawing from the Pan Pacific Open, which began on January 31.
Davenport turned pro in February 1993. Since then, the California native has won 26 singles titles, including the 1996 Olympics, 1999 Wimbledon, and 2000 Australian Open, and 28 doubles titles. Based on her seven singles titles in 1999, Davenport earned her second consecutive Player of the Year honor at the WTA Tour's Annual Awards Ceremony held on March 22 in Miami. Despite her hamstring and groin problems, she is currently on a 19-match winning streak.
WHAT'S INVOLVED IN HAMSTRING AND GROIN PULLS?
Hamstrings are long muscles on the back of the thigh that are attached to the pelvis and the leg. They are unusual in that they cross two joints -- the hip and the knee -- and can move both. They are mainly responsible for moving both the thigh and the leg backward. As a result, the hamstrings are key muscles for running. Because the hamstring crosses two joints and is long, there are a great number of injuries to this muscle. It is probably one of the tightest and least stretched muscles in the body.
The muscle most often injured in a groin pull is the adductor longus muscle, a long muscle on the inside of the thigh stretching between the pelvis and the thigh bone. It occurs when the leg is pulled outward, causing the muscle to overstretch. The pull usually occurs either at the junction of the tendon and the muscle, or at the junction of the tendon and the pelvic bone itself.
The physician can usually tell if it's a pull when the patient describes the incident that caused the injury, such as if her leg was pulled out away from the body or was stretched suddenly. Upon examination, the patient will complain of pain in the area. An X-ray will usually rule out a bone injury. Also, an MRI can show the internal bleeding to an injured area.
For the hamstring, the first rule of treatment is RICE -- rest, ice, compression, and elevation. After the inflammation is relieved, the patient should continue to rest the muscle and let it start to heal. Then the athlete can work on getting the range of motion and flexibility back to normal using strengthening exercises. As the range of motion nears normal, it would be advised that the physician look at the athlete's body as a whole -- the ratio of strength between the quads and the hamstrings and that of one hamstring to the other.
For the groin, rest and ice are recommended, then a gradual stretching and strengthening program followed by a return to athletics. Anti-inflammatory medication and ice help with the swelling, but time is what cures groin pulls more than anything.
During matches, a snug wrap -- but not overly tight -- should be worn over the affected hamstring. Ice should be applied to the affected area soon after the cool-down period. Also, during lulls in the match, the player should keep moving and stretching to prevent the muscles from tightening.
Increased flexibility is key to preventing hamstring and groin pulls. It's important to stretch each leg muscle group before practice and matches, and to spend at least 10 minutes warming up. A cool-down period afterward is also advised. Since Davenport is large for a female tennis player -- 6 feet 2 inches and 175 pounds, according to the Women's Tennis Association -- it's important that she keep her weight down to prevent strains and stresses on her bones and muscles.
Despite some tightness in the affected area, Davenport appears to be recovering nicely.
Davenport may feel twinges now and then until she can rest for days at a time, which is difficult when playing so many tournaments back-to-back. It is important that tennis players not let themselves get out of shape during off periods.