Hamstring strain. What is it?

The hamstrings are a group of 3 muscles that are on the back of the thigh. They help bend the knee and also straighten the hip.

A muscle strain can occur if a muscle is put under a load that is greater than what it can tolerate or if it is overstretched.

For the hamstrings, this usually occurs during sprinting or kicking sports.

Muscle strains are graded as either I, II, or III (minor, moderate, severe) to gauge the severity of the injury.

How long does it take to get better?

Depending on the severity it can range from 1 to 9 weeks (Macdonald et al 2019).

If you can walk pain-free in 1 day after the injury you are more likely to have a grade I strain and the sooner you will recover.

The amount of time it takes to return to sport has also been correlated with the length of tenderness along the hamstring. This means the smaller the sore area is on the hamstring the more likely you will have a faster recovery. (Schmitt et al 2020)

Before you return to training and sport the injured leg must have the same flexibility, strength, and power as the other.

It is also necessary to be able to run, sprint, and perform the movements in your sport pain-free.

How do I get better at the start?

Initially protect the area by avoiding activities that aggravate the hamstrings and could potentially cause further injury, such as jumping and sprinting.

Compress the area in a bandage to aid and elevate the hamstring above the level of the heart to minimise any swelling.

Check in with a physio to determine the severity of the injury, give you advice on activities to avoid, and give you an individualised rehabilitation program to get you back to the sport as soon as possible.

How do I prevent it from happening in the future?

Having a hamstring strain is a risk factor for sustaining another one in the future, so it is important to follow a rehabilitation program before you return to sports.

A large and or sudden increase in high-speed running is also a risk factor for sustaining a hamstring injury. It is therefore important to have a pre-season training schedule that gradually and progressively increases the amount of sprinting you are doing. Try to avoid sprinting and hamstring strength training on the same day to give them enough time to recover between sessions.

It is important to get the hamstrings strong before returning to the sport so they can tolerate more load.

Here are some exercises you can do!