October 10th, 2013

Health N' Sports: Hamstring Injuries

Staff Report

Health N' Sports: Hamstring Injuries
photo from howmanyarethere.net

As a part of the Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic, the Sports Rehab Team physical therapists are knowledgeable and trained in the latest advancements and techniques available in sports rehabilitation.

On a weekly basis, the Health N’ Sports Update will give information on prevention, recovery, and include special offers, as well as general health tips that would be beneficial to all. If there is a specific topic you’d like to know or hear more about, email future suggestions to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

Everything You Need To Know About Hamstring Injury

There’s nothing new about hamstring injuries in sport and exercise.  Anyone from workout newbies to elite professional athletes can strain their hamstring.  Unfortunately, hamstring injuries are very common, painful and can be difficult to resolve.  I am a huge fantasy football fan and there’s nothing worse than getting the news that your star running back strained their hamstring.  For one, the hamstring is a major component in power, speed and explosiveness.  Secondly, it’s very difficult for an athlete to return from a hamstring strain before it’s fully healed.  Finally, the rate of re-injury is very high due to the weakness of scar tissue.  So, what should you do?  If you’re playing fantasy football, drop the player and pick up someone healthy.  If you sustain a hamstring injury, make sure you consult a professional and make sure you rehab the injury fully.


The hamstring is not just made up of a single string.  This posterior group of muscles is made of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris.  These muscles are involved in both flexion of the knee and extension of the hip.  When a hamstring strain occurs, one of these muscles is excessively stretched or loaded.  Strains vary from first, second and third degrees.  Higher degree strains result in more tearing and damage to the hamstring muscle.  This injury will present with sudden and usually severe pain during exercise along with a possible pop or snap.  Pain will be located along the posterior aspect of the thigh anywhere from just above the knee to the lower buttock.  Pain increases when the leg is straightened, palpation (pushing on location of injury), and resisted knee flexion or bending.   Bruising and swelling will usually be present with second and third degree strains.

Decrease Your Risk

It would be nice if hamstring strains could be prevented all together, but that’s not reality.  You can decrease the risk of injury by doing these few things:

Warm up and stretch before exercise.

Don’t forget to strengthen the hamstring during your resistance training – working on just your quads (thigh) and ignoring your hamstrings can put unnecessary stress on them.

Don’t make a rapid change to the intensity of your training schedule.

Conservative Treatment

Fortunately, minor hamstring injuries tend to heal without surgery, but remember, re-injury can easily occur if it’s not fully healed and rehabilitated.  Once the injury is diagnosed as a hamstring strain, start treating it with these steps:

Rest and refrain from lower leg physical activity.  Crutches may be used to decrease weight bearing.

Use ice to reduce pain and swelling.  Ice for 20 minutes and reapply the ice after waiting 20 minutes.

Use compression with an elastic bandage to further reduce swelling.  Begin the wrap by the knee and work up.

Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), to reduce pain and swelling.

Begin very light, pain-free stretching once a medical professional clears you to do so.  If it continues to improve, you can start light strengthening exercises.

When Can I Resume Physical Activity?

Because people heal at different rates, recovery times can differ.  Higher levels of physical activity and rehabilitation can resume when:

You are pain free.

Equal range of motion compared to the uninvolved leg.

Equal bilateral hamstring strength.

Pain free jogging, jumping and hopping on involved leg.

Preparing for Return to Athletics

The last stage of rehab should include a gradual buildup of sport specific exercises.  These could include pool work, submaximal sprints, ladder drills, and other ground based activities.  Remember, resuming full level activity before the hamstring is completely healed will likely result in re-injury.

Holy Cross High School Football Coach Todd Crumbacker:

1) What are the common injuries that your team deals with this season?

We suffer pulled muscles and sprains more often than any other injury.

2) What are your thoughts on any hamstring injuries this season?

We have had one hamstring injury this season. The doctor suggested a combination of ice and heat.

3) What are some ways to prevent hamstring injuries? What are some ways to heal from hamstring injuries?

We encourage our players to stretch often and to hydrate throughout the day. We focus on flexibility and hydration to help in preventing muscle injuries, such as a pulled hamstring. We suggest to our players with muscle injuries a combination of ice and heat. 20 min heat, 20 min ice, etc.

4) Do hamstring injuries affect each age for football? (Grade school, high school, college, pro)

I believe so, yes. I would think more at the high school, college, and pro level.


-Mike Mehring, ATC-

Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic & Sports Rehab Center

Main Office: 502-897-1794

Physical Therapy: 502-897-1790

Website: louortho.com

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