This post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Sports Medicine
A pulled hamstring is a common injury among athletes especially for those who participate in sports that require running at high speed. A hamstring strain or pulled hamstring is an injury to the muscles in the back of the thigh.
The hamstring muscles are located in the back of the thigh. Beginning below the pelvis, the hamstring muscles cross the knee joint and end at the lower leg. The muscles help extend your leg straight back and bend your knee.
A strained hamstring can be a pull, a partial tear or a complete tear. The strains usually occur in the think, central part of the muscle or where the muscle fibers join tendon fibers.
Hamstring strains are graded according to severity
- Grade 1 (pull): Mild, usually heals quickly
- Grade 2 (partial tear): Moderate, heals over a longer period of time
- Grade 3 (complete tear): Severe, may take months to heal
In extremely severe hamstring injuries, the tendons may tear completely away from the bone and even pull bone with it, also referred to as an avulsion injury.
- Muscle suddenly takes on too much weight
- Muscle stretched beyond its ability
- Muscle imbalance
- Poor conditioning
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle fatigue
- Runners and sprinters
- Growing children
Symptoms of a hamstring strain
- Sudden sharp pain in the back of the thigh
- Bruising or discoloration on the back of your leg
- Weakness in hamstring
To determine whether you have a hamstring strain, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, ask questions about your pain and how long you have been experiencing your symptoms, and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to rule out other injuries.
Typically treatment for a hamstring strain is non-surgical and includes:
- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE)
- Activity modification or immobilization: Such as avoiding activities that worsen symptoms
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
- Home exercises to strengthen muscles
- Physical therapy to increase hamstring strength and flexibility
If the muscle is completely torn, surgery may be necessary to return to normal movement. Particularly, the proximal avulsion injuries, if severe, may require surgery. The orthopedic surgeon will determine if surgery is indicated. However, even in severe hamstring strains, non-surgical methods have proven successful in returning a patient to their normal lifestyle.
- Avoid the activity that caused your injury for up to two weeks
- Condition muscles with exercise
- Warm up before exercise or sports activity
- Wear appropriate protective gear
- Cool down after exercise or sports activity
- If you feel pain, stop immediate and let muscles heal completely before returning to sports
Learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.