One of the most common injuries in sport is the hamstring strain. A hamstring strain can range from mild to severe involving a complete tear of the hamstring muscle.
Your hamstring comprises of semimembranosus and semitendinosus (medially) and biceps femoris - short and long heads (laterally). The action of the hamstring muscles is to flex (bend) the knee and extend (straighten) the hip.
Hamstring strains are most common among sports that require a high degree of speed, power and agility such as soccer, basketball, tennis and football.
Acute hamstring strains occur due to a sudden movement or force being applied to the hamstring muscles. The player is immediately aware of the condition. Sometimes players hear an audible pop.
Proven risk factors:
Previous hamstring injury.
Increasing age of player.
Sudden change in direction (acceleration or deceleration).
Suspected risk factors:
Hamstring muscle fatigue.
Muscle strength imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings.
Inappropriate, inadequate or no warm up.
Hamstring strains are graded 1, 2 or 3. With a grade 1 injury the athlete may have tightness in back of the thigh but will be able to walk normally. They will be aware of some discomfort and unable to operate at full speed
With a grade 2 strain gait will be affected and they will most likely be limping. Sudden twinges of pain during activity will occur. They may notice some swelling and pain on using the leg.
A grade 3 hamstring strain is a severe injury involving a tear to half or all of the muscle. The athlete may need crutches to walk and will feel severe pain and weakness in the muscle. Swelling will be noticeable immediately and bruising will usually appear within 24 hours
Many patients with a hamstring start to feel better within a few days of the injury. However, there is an extremely high hamstring re-injury rate due to a poor rehabilitation process.
Hamstring strains are one injury that professional guidance is highly recommended for both an accurate diagnosis but also provide you with the best chance of avoiding repeat hamstring injuries.
Your physiotherapy treatment will aim to:
educe hamstring pain and inflammation.
Normalise your muscle range of motion and extensibility.
Strengthen your knee muscles and hamstrings.
Strengthen your lower limb muscles: calves, hip and pelvis muscles.
Normalise lumbo-pelvic control and stability - a co-factor in many hamstring strains.
Normalise your neurodynamics to enable your sciatic nerve to pass freely without scar adhesions.
Improve your game speed, proprioception, agility and balance.
Improve your technique and function eg running, sprinting, jumping, hopping and landing.
Minimise your chance of hamstring re-injury
For people with persistent hamstring pain and dysfunction that is not recovering in 4-8 weeks, it is important that you receive a proper sports physiotherapy assessment, as the symptoms in your hamstring may be referred pain, and not actually be the hamstring as the source. In these cases, it is usually the lumbar spine and neural tissue that are generating the pain.