Any sport that depends on movement and strength uses the hamstrings to provide speed, quickness and power. Certain sports that involve sprinting and explosive power are more likely to engage the hamstring muscle, however.
The hamstring is located in the back of the thigh and running from the buttocks to just above the knee. They bend the knee joint and, in conjunction with the glutes, extend the hip.
While all runners depend on their hamstrings, a sprinter's success depends largely on the health and strength of the hamstring muscles. The hamstring is put to the test at the start of any sprint race because of the explosive strength that is needed to propel the runner out of the starting blocks. Then the athlete must accelerate and maintain that speed throughout the race. Sprinters build strength in their hamstring muscles with weight training and maintain flexibility through stretching exercises.
Football players need the ability to accelerate and reach top speed. They also often change directions quickly, jump high to catch passes and absorb powerful hits, throughout the course of a game. This means they're dependent on the health and viability of their hamstrings.
For a running back to have success, for example, he must accelerate past tacklers and get into the open field to make big plays. Former Detroit Lion Barry Sanders is recognized as one of the most dangerous running backs in football history because of his ability to break the big play. His overall leg strength allowed him to jump out of potential tackles and his powerful hamstrings gave him the ability to make long runs.
The freestyle stroke in swimming is dependent on the hamstring muscle with every kick. The hamstring muscle must be sufficiently warmed up when you get into the pool or you put yourself at risk for cramps or hamstring pulls.
Once you're warmed up and ready to train or race in an event, swimming itself helps to strengthen the hamstring muscle. Many athletes in other sports use swimming to help condition or strengthen hamstring muscles.
The explosive jumping that results in a basketball dunk, a blocked shot or coming up with a key rebound often is the result of hamstring strength. When basketball players leap off one foot, they are using an explosive movement powered by the hamstring.
However, when a basketball player uses the two-foot jump -- usually when the player is planted under the basket -- the quads, glutes and back muscles take over. A player must build strength and flexibility in the hamstrings when executing the one-foot jump that is so common when sprinting up the court toward the rim.