By: Coco Ang, PT
Hamstring strains are some of the most common sports injuries professional athletes and sports enthusiasts face. The injury occurs when the tendons in the back of the thigh are strained or torn altogether. A hamstring injury can be categorized into three grades depending on the severity of the injury.
Grade I: This is a mild muscle pull or a strain. The strain is characterized by a sudden pain and tenderness in the back of the thigh. The leg could be painful, but there is no loss of strength in the muscle.
Grade II: This is a partial muscle tear. These leave the thigh painful and tender but also cause mild swelling and bruising. This type of strain may cause some loss of muscle strength.
Grade III: This is a complete muscle tear. A complete tear is characterized by bruising, swelling and tenderness of the thigh. When the muscle is completely torn; a popping noise is heard and you will be unable to walk on the leg altogether.
Causes of a Hamstring Injury
Hamstring injuries occur when the tendons are stretched beyond their limit. This usually occurs when athletes perform explosive and sudden movements such as lunging, jumping or sprinting. Of course it is not only sudden movements that cause hamstring injuries, these injuries can occur if you overstretch your muscles.
The injury can be recurrent depending upon whether you have sufficiently let you body heal from the strain. Some athletes may suffer from a similar strain or worse if they do not give enough rest to the strained thigh.
The treatment for a hamstring injury can be broken down into two parts the initial treatment and then the rehabilitation process.
The initial treatment for a grade I or grade II hamstring injury involves following the PRICE protocol. The PRICE protocol entails the following steps:
- Protect the injured muscle by using walking support or not engaging in any mobility for a while depending upon the severity of the strain.
- Rest the leg as often as you can or until your doctor says it may be alright to resume normal activity.
- Ice the muscle to reduce soreness and swelling.
- Compress the muscle and immobilize it to offer support and reduce swelling.
- Elevate the muscle.
Assuming that surgery is required to repair the muscle tear, you may have to go through some pre-operative procedures.
Rehabilitation involves the use of physiotherapy that increases in intensity to restore the muscle back to normal strength. These exercises involve strength training; developing flexibility and helping patients regain full mobility of their leg.
In the more frequent grade I and grade II muscle strains, most people tend to recover within a few weeks. However Grade III tears require months of rehabilitation and rest before the patient is fully recovered.
Before beginning you physical exercises taking some very simple steps can ensure that you do not develop a hamstring strain. The condition is easily preventable and can be avoided if the following procedure is followed:
- Stretch before engaging in physical activity
- Conduct a thorough warm up before and cool down after your physical exercise.
- Increase the intensity of your exercise rather than going all out from the start.
- Make sure that you stay fully hydrated throughout your exercise routine
Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute clinics are greater Toronto area based sports medicine, physiotherapy and massage therapy clinics that offer a wide range of services including acupuncture, chiropractor services and exercise therapy.