Studies are now indicating that one of the most common injuries in sport is the hamstring strain or tear. This accounts for 6% – 29% of all injuries reported in AFL, rugby union, soccer, cricket, basketball and sprinters, where a high degree of speed, power and agility are required.
For those who have experienced a hamstring tear, you will agree that it is one of the most frustrating and difficult sporting injuries to recover from. It is usually very sudden, with athletes describing it as though something has clasped the back of their thigh so tightly making it barely possible to move. Others explain it as a stinging sensation in the back of their leg.
The hamstring muscle is made up of 4 muscles:
- Biceps Femoris – Long Head
- Biceps Femoris – Short Head
All four of these muscles (excluding short head bf) connect from the pelvis and insert in to the shin bone and cross over both the hip ad knee joint and the main action of the muscles itself is to flex (bend) the knee and extend (straighten) the hip. Symptoms of a strain or tear include pain to the back of the thigh, popping noise, tearing sensation, pain from the pelvis to the back of the knee, muscle spasm and stiffness, bruising and swelling.
Types of Hamstring Tears
- Symptoms may not be noticeable until the activity is over
- Increased tightness in the muscle during stretching
- Pain when walking uphill or down stairs
- Loss of muscular strength
- Weight bearing activities may be painful
- Partial tear of the muscle
- Immediate pain
- Limping during walking
- Noticeable increased loss of muscular strength
- Pain when stretching and sore to touch
- Bending the knee causes pain and may be difficult to straighten
- Complete rupture of the muscle
- Sudden sharp pain in the back of the leg
- Cannot walk without pain
- After a few days large bruising may appear below the injury site caused by bleeding within the compartment
- As a last resort surgery may be required
Hamstring Tear Recovery
Rest – Giving the muscle time to rest is the first step and allows the swelling to subside and any inflammation to calm down.
Ice/Heat – Ice can be an effective pain relief for hamstring injuries. Applying ice to the area will limit the swelling and inflammation and stimulate blood flow to the injured area. Applying heat to the muscle before activity will promote blood flow and loosen the muscle.
Stretching/Massage – After the initial bruising and swelling has subsided it is important to start stretching out the muscle. Massaging is also an imperative part of the recovery process and will prevent scar tissue build up which can cause the muscle to re-injure.
Rehab for Hamstring Tears
Hamstring tears have a high re-injury rate (just think of how many times your favorite football player is out with a hamstring injury). This is due to poor or inadequate rehabilitation.
RICE followed by soft tissue massage, stretching, core strengthening, progressive agility, neuromuscular controlled exercises and isolated hamstring strengthening programmes with specific emphasis on eccentric exercises, the hamstring recovery will surely require an in-depth attention to detail guided by a qualified Physiotherapist.
For an accurate diagnosis and the fastest recovery, it is imperative you book in for a consultation with a qualified physiotherapist, who can design the best possible treatment plan for you.