Hamstring Injuries

The hamstring muscles are located on the back of the thigh and are actually three different muscles. They are powerful, spread across the back of the thigh and connect to the bones at the lower end of the pelvis and below the knee. They function to flex (bend) the knee joint and straighten the hip joint while walking.

The hamstring muscle group delivers power primarily during lower leg activities such as running, jumping or climbing. And consequently injuries to the hamstring muscle also happen during activities in which quick acceleration is required, such as sprinting. A torn hamstring can also happen with a direct blow to the muscle or when falling backward onto an object that hits the hamstring muscle.

Hamstring muscle injuries are common to all types of athletes from Olympic sprinters to slow-pitch softball players. Other sporting events where this type of injury is common include water skiing, ice skating, dancing, weight lifting and kicking sports.

Although these injuries usually heal with conservative care for it to return to full function and recovery to be complete it will need special attention and a rehabilitation program.

Most of the injuries happen in the area where the muscle and tendons join (musculotendinous complex). This muscle has a large musculotendinous complex which explains why hamstring injuries are so common.

During a strain, sprain or tear of the hamstring the muscle fibers are torn. A torn hamstring is a graded injury. In other words the severity of the injury is graded using a structured system. In a Grade 1 tear the injury is microscopic, the muscle is stretched too far and there is some bleeding within the muscle. You may be sore after a particular activity and require a couple of days off of sports. In a Grade 2 injury the muscle is a partial tear to one of the muscles in the group. This will result in an injury that causes you to limp for a week, have pain, swelling, tenderness and require treatment. In a Grade 3 injury the muscle is completely ruptured or torn. There will be significant pain, difficulty walking, pain, swelling and an immediate desire to visit your doctor.

When the muscle is injured the body releases chemicals to help with clotting and healing. The body will start to rebuild muscle tissue within a day after the injury. The rebuilding process takes weeks to complete depending upon the severity of the tear. However, if there was an avulsion, which means the muscle was torn completely from the bone, surgery may be necessary to make the repair.

*There are several factors that increase the risk of sustaining a torn hamstring. These factors include muscles that aren’t warmed up for the activity, poorly developed muscles, poor flexibility and low level of fitness. Athletes who have imbalanced muscle strength between the quadriceps and the hamstring muscle groups are also at higher risk to sustain a torn hamstring muscle.

When the injury happens the athlete wil