Hamstring Injury – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hamstring injury treatment

Hamstring injury Treatment | Dr. Praharsha Mulpur

A group of muscles at the back of the thigh belongs to the hamstring muscle group: there are three muscles in it: semitendinosus; semimembranosus and biceps femoris. These muscles help in extending the leg and bending the knees. Muscle strain or pulled hamstring or hamstring injury is an injury to one or more of these muscles at the back of the thigh. It happens when the muscles are overloaded or overstretched. Depending on the injury the muscles can tear partially or completely.

Hamstring injury is most common in athletes – particularly in those who play basketball, soccer and participate in sprinting – such as track. A strain or pulled hamstring can be a pull, injury, a partial tear, or a complete tear of muscles at the back of the thigh. The most common type of injury is pulled hamstring which commonly occurs in athletes. In many cases, hamstring injury occurs in the muscle belly (the thick, central part of the muscle) or the point where tendon fibers join the muscle fibers. In a severe type of hamstring injury known as avulsion injury, the tendon tears completely away from the bone.

What are the grades of a Hamstring Injury?

A hamstring injury or muscle strains’ grades are defined based on the severity.

Grade 1 is a mild strain or muscle pull (heals readily).

Grade 2 is a partial muscle tear with somewhat more pain than grade 1 strain. The person with this type of strain will feel weak and is more likely to limp.

Grade 3 is a complete muscle tear (this type of injury takes months to heal).  A person with this type of strain hears a popping sound at the time of injury and the thigh becomes extremely painful.

Causes of a Hamstring Injury

The most common cause of Hamstring injury is overstretching (when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity). The other possible reasons for muscles strain include the following:

  • Muscle overload (when the muscle is challenged with a sudden load)
  • Extremely hard training resulting in muscle fatigue
  • Insufficient warming up
  • Inadequate pre-conditioning program
  • Previous hamstring injury
  • A direct blow to your thigh

Hamstring Injury Symptoms

A sudden jerking pulls on the tissues of the hamstring muscle. A person who has hamstring injury experiences a sharp, sudden pain with a popping or tearing sensation in the back of the thigh. In addition, the person also feels muscle weakness or an inability to put weight on the affected leg. The injured person may also feel or hear a popping or tearing sensation. There is a variation in the intensity of the pain. The person having pulled the hamstring cannot continue the activity and often cannot even stand. Along with muscle weakness, discoloration or bruising may appear. Tenderness and swelling may also develop usually within a few hours.

Muscle spasms, tenderness, and tightness are associated with a hamstring injury. In case of a severe injury, physical examination reveals swelling, inflammation, blue, black, or bruised appearance. Orthopedic doctors also detect injury, in some cases, by touching a palpable defect in the muscle. Muscle strains and tears most commonly occur in the middle of the back of the thigh or at the base of the buttock.

Diagnosis of Hamstring Injury

An Orthopedic surgeon, first of all, check the thigh for tenderness, swelling, and bruising. It will help the doctor decide whether the injury is mild or severe. The doctor may also order an ultrasound or MRI to determine the extent of muscle injury.

Hamstring Injury Treatment

The treatment largely depends on the extent and grade of injury. In most sports injuries, the first line of treatment is RICE Method. However, for a severe grade III injury surgery may be recommended to remain the torn muscles. The acronym RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Bottom Line

Hamstring muscle injury is a common athletic injury. A majority of Orthopedic surgeons specialize in injury evaluation and Hamstring Injury treatment. Tendons and muscles injured during a hamstring injury heal without surgery. However, grade 3 injuries require surgery to repair the injured muscles. Regular stretching and exercises and warm-up before activities can help reduce the risk of hamstring injuries.