What is a Hamstring Strain?
The hamstrings are a set of three muscles located on the back of your leg. They attach up by your pelvis and extend down below your knee. A hamstring muscle strain is defined as an excessive stretch or rapid contraction of a muscle that results in damage to the muscle fibers.
- Grade I (minimal or first degree) involves damage to a small number of muscle fibers. The athlete typically has localized pain without any loss in muscle strength.
- Grade II (moderate or second degree) clear loss of strength coupled with pain reproduced with resistance.
- Grade III (severe or third degree) complete rupture of the muscle and loss of strength and function.
What causes a Hamstring Strain?
Muscle tear or strain commonly occurs during quick acceleration or deceleration movements. Hamstring strains are the most common soft tissue injury in recreational and sports activities that involve jumping, sprinting, or kicking. They also have the highest rate of recurrence in sports ranging from 12-31%.
Signs and Symptoms
- Grade I - Patient may complain of soreness in the hamstring, some pain upon palpation and minimal swelling at the injury site.
- Grade II - Symptoms of that of Grade I but increased.
- Grade III - Patient may have experienced a "pop" at moment of injury, severe pain upon palpation, swelling at/around injury site and after several days bruising may be present.
RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate) during the first 48hours after the initial injury.
After that time period we recommend heat, massage, and low level pain free exercises, followed by 15 minutes of ice. At Jump Start Physical Therapy we typically do not recommend stretching the hamstrings until you no longer have pain with resistance or palpation. We also recommend that the athlete not return to sport until he/she is pain free for 2 weeks with daily activities (walking, stairs, bending and reaching). We will assure that your athlete is ready to return to sport, by putting him/her through a battery of tests to ensure an optimal return to sports. As your pain decreases current research suggests that strengthening the hamstring muscles eccentrically may decrease your chances of a recurrence of this injury. In addition to strengthening the hamstrings we will address any other muscle imbalances that you may have. Other treatments available may include (compression shorts, various taping techniques, ace wraps, and neoprene sleeves).
Your physical therapist will give you specific guidelines for your individual needs.