Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring is a tendon of the muscles, which are situated at the back of the thigh. Hamstring injuries are common and often quite serious, causing pain, long period of rehabilitation and a distinct proneness to re‐injury. Hamstring injuries are one of the most frequent injuries in sport, accounting for 12–16% of all injuries in athletes. Re-injury rate is also very high and occurs approximately to one third of patients, who had such injury before. Each injury results in 2 to 6 weeks of physical activity absence.

Causes, symptoms and risk factors of hamstring injuries

The injury typically occurs after the trauma or in the bicep femoris, along an intramuscular tendon and in the adjacent muscle fibers after the trauma, leading to sudden and severe pain, tenderness, bruising and swelling. Hamstring injury may occur during exercises that involves running, jumping, sudden stopping or starting. The cause of such injury may also be the lack of warm-up before intensive physical activity, it is also quite common in teenagers due to a growth spurt. The main risk factor of hamstring injuries are previous injuries after traumas. Other risk factors include age, decreased hip flexor flexibility, hamstring strength deficit or imbalance, higher body weight.

What should a person do after experiencing a hamstring injury?

When a person experiences trauma and suspects hamstring injury, he or she should consult with physician as soon as possible. This consultation should be done within 2 days after the injury, as it is the most relevant period of time to perform physical examination and to start the appropriate treatment. During the physical examination physician will inspect the posture, gait and muscle bellies, detect location and extent of the muscle tear, flexibility, strength of the hamstrings and assess pain.

Typical treatment options

Typical treatment methods include medications, in severe cases – surgery, and rehabilitation in all cases. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the medicines of first choice. They are effective in reduction of most symptoms as NSAIDs affects both, pain and inflammation. Due to possible serious adverse drug reactions, these medications should be used only short period of time. As mentioned before, in severe hamstring injuries a surgery may be needed. Surgical repair is performed if there is a complete avulsion of all 3 tendons or disruption of the conjoint tendon with greater than 2.5 to 3 cm of retraction.

After medication therapy or surgery, a patient must start an appropriate rehabilitation. Most of these programs start with gentle range of motion and gait training exercises, trying to avoid hamstring stretching, significant tension and re-injury.

Self-help options

Most common self-help options include resting, local cooling and leg compression with elastic bandage. The leg should also be elevated while sitting or lying down, as this method reduces the swelling effectively. Stretching and strengthening exercises must be performed if recommended by your doctor.