It’s a scene we’re all familiar with: you’re watching sports on TV and a player who has been running pulls up lame. “Looks like a hamstring injury” the announcer says as the player limps off the field. Your hamstrings are the large muscles that run from your knee to your hip at the back of your leg. They are composed of three separate muscles — biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus.
Together these three muscles work to bend your knees and move your hips backward and are used when performing almost any activity — running, walking, or jumping. That’s why you see players leave the game immediately — these muscles are so essential to motion that they cannot continue once injured.
About Hamstring Injuries
A hamstring injury occurs when one or more of these three muscles becomes overworked. The resulting injury can be anything from a mild strain to a partial or even a complete tear. Hamstring injuries are classified into three grades:
- Grade 1 is a mild pull or strain
- Grade 2 is a partial muscle tear
- Grade 3 is a complete muscle tear
A mild strain may feel more like tightness than an injury with the pain becoming more pronounced as the severity of the injury increases. The pain and discomfort increases with the severity of the injury, with severe strains or tears making it difficult to walk or stand.
If you’re exercising, particularly if you’re performing exercise that involves sudden starts and stops, and you feel tightness, pain. or tenderness at the back of your thigh you may have a hamstring injury.
Treatment And Prognosis
The first step is to have the injury properly diagnosed. Your doctor or a qualified physical therapist can help you determine the type and severity of your hamstring injury. Most grade 1 and grade 2 strains typically heal on their own when following the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is often accompanied by anti-inflammatory drugs to help with pain and speed the healing process. Partial or complete tears may require surgery to reattach the muscle.
Recovery time will depend on the severity of the injury. Mild or grade 1 strains may heal in just a few days, with grade 2 or grade 3 strains taking weeks or even months to heal. It’s important to fully recover from a hamstring injury before resuming strenuous exercise, otherwise the likelihood of reinjury is high.
Stretching and Prevention
You can help to prevent hamstring injuries by observing some simple rules. Make sure you warm up before exercising — if your activity involves explosive starts and stops make sure to simulate these at partial speed beforehand.
Make sure to stretch the quadriceps muscles at the front of your thighs. When these muscles become tight they place added strain on your hamstrings. Also you should make sure to strengthen your gluteus muscles. These work with the hamstrings and if they are weak the hamstrings can become overworked.
How Apex Can Help
If you have already been diagnosed with a hamstring strain or think you have one and would like an evaluation, we can help. Our trained health professionals can help to diagnose the type and severity of your injury and provide a range of treatment and therapy designed to speed healing and minimize down time with future prevention in mind. Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy, and Athletic Therapy may be used to treat your injury.