If you like to watch sports, you have probably seen someone sprinting down the field or track, grab the back of their leg, and go down in agony. Or, if you play in a kickball league (adult sports anyone??), you may have witnessed this in person too. The athlete sustained the dreaded “pulled hamstring” or in medical terminology, a hamstring strain.
Check out this QUICK VIDEO SUMMARY about the Hamstring muscle group.
The hamstring is made up of 3 muscles: the Biceps Femoris, the Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus. The hamstring muscle moves both the hip joint and the knee joint, which is why movements at either joint can be irritating after a hamstring injury.
Many athletes want to know how they can avoid hamstring injuries altogether. Although there is not a guaranteed way to prevent injury, there are some known modifiable risk factors to consider: hamstring weakness, poor hamstring flexibility, and a strength imbalance between the hamstrings and quadriceps muscle groups.
Image copyright: Paul Hermans, Opgespannen hamstrings <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Opgespannen_hamstrings.jpg? utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pulled_hamstrings_guide&utm_term=2021-08-03>, via Wikimedia Commons
How we Assess if a Patient has a Hamstring Strain?
Some indicators include:
- A mechanism of injury (running)
- Sudden onset of pain
- Pain localized at back of leg
- Audible pop at time of injury
- Pain with activities like walking, running, bending knee, straightening knee
I think i have a hamstring strain. Now what?
Here are a few tips to help you manage symptoms until you are evaluated by a professional:
- Take smaller steps when walking
- Use crutches if needed (Pain more than 3/10 with walking)
- Use ice for the first 24-48 hours, 15-20 minutes no more than 2-3x a day
- If ice and activity modification does not help manage pain, NSAIDs (Ibuprofen) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help
- Avoid excessive stretching
- Perform range of motion in a PAIN FREE RANGE (bend/ straighten knee in a comfortable range)
Recovery from a hamstring strain varies tremendously, a few weeks to many months. If the strain occurs higher up near the buttocks and/or encompasses a larger area, recovery will likely be longer. Also, if you are able to move more without pain, such as no pain with walking, there is a higher likelihood you will recover more quickly.
If you sustain a hamstring injury and have a goal of returning to sport, we highly recommend going through a rehabilitation program or specialized strength training program to regain strength and flexibility. One third of reinjuries occur within the first year after the athlete returns to sport, with many reinjuries occurring within the first two weeks.
The re-injury will often be more severe or more difficult to come back from than the first. Make sure you are getting what you need so you are not one of those numbers!