Hamstring Injury refers to the strain or pull or treat of one of the hamstring muscles that run along the back of the thigh. The hamstrings are the tendons, a group of 3 muscles; mainly semitendinosus, semimembranosus or biceps femoris that attach the large muscles at the back of the thigh to bone. These muscles stretch along the thigh, crossing both the hip and the knee. They originate or start just below the buttocks, arising from the bone on which we sit (i.e., the ischium) and connect by means of their tendons onto the upper parts of the lower leg bones (i.e., the tibia and the fibula). These hamstring muscles together allow one to bend the leg at the knee during activities like jumping, running, climbing etc or help one to freely move around.
A hamstring injury usually occurs due to rapid acceleration activities that overloads or overstretches the hamstrings causing a minor or major strain to even a rupture or complete or partial tear. While a minor strain is classified as a grade I tear, a complete rupture, or tear, is classified as a grade III tear. Grade II tears chiefly refer to partial ruptures.
The following causative factors increases the risk of developing a hamstring injury:
Warm-up: Absence of a proper warm-up before a sports or exercise ritual aggravates the chances of getting hamstring injury.
Muscle Imbalance: A person is more likely to get hamstring injury if the muscles along the front of the thigh, i.e., the quadriceps become stronger and more developed than the hamstring muscles causing an imbalance.
Poor Flexibility: Inactivity for a longer duration often causes poor flexibility, inhibiting the hamstrings to stretch and increasing the chances of getting injured.
Participation In Sports Activity: Certain sports or other activities that involve sprinting, running or dancing may overstretch the hamstring muscles causing a pull or a strain.
Previous Hamstring Injury: If you had a hamstring injury in the past, you are more likely to have one more if you suddenly resume all activities prior to the injury at full intensity.
Hamstring injuries chiefly occur with sudden lunging, running, or jumping, resulting in muscle pull or strain. The common signs and symptoms include:
- Sudden sharp pain at the back of the thigh
- Popping or snapping feeling and severe pain during exercise or when carrying out any movement
- Tenderness and swelling as in the case of any sports injury
- Bruising or discolouration
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to put any weight on the injured leg
Diagnosis And Treatment
On suddenly experiencing any pain or noticing the above-mentioned symptoms do rush to a doctor to get diagnosed and start the treatment at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup by looking for swelling and points of tenderness along the back of your thigh as the correct location and pain intensity can help understand the nature and extent of the injury. The doctor might also ask the patient to slowly move the leg into a variety of positions to help acknowledge which muscle has suffered injury and whether there is any ligament or tendon damage. Finally, the doctor might perform some imaging tests like X-ray, Ultrasound or MRI to look for fractures or tears in the bones, ligaments or tendons.
The main approach while treating a hamstring injury is to reduce pain and swelling. And for this purpose, the doctor may suggest the following remedial steps:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications to reduce pain and swelling
- Applying ice pack over the injury
- Taking adequate rest and a break from any strenuous activities
- Using a cane or crutch to avoid putting pressure on the injured leg
- Wrapping compression shorts or bandages over the injured area to minimize swelling
- Keeping the injured leg at an elevated level to improve drainage and reduce swelling