A hamstring strain is a tear in either the muscle belly or tendon too either one or more of the three hamstring muscles. The hamstring muscles are located behind the thigh and can be divided into three separate muscles. On the lateral side you’ll find the biceps femoris and medially consists of the semimembranosus and semitendinosus muscles. These muscles are common to injury in athletes, especially those that sport involves running, jumping and sudden stopping/change of direction. Hamstring strains are caused when the muscle is stretched beyond its functional limit or capacity and is common in individuals who have had previous injuries to the hamstring as the re-injury rate is high. There are several factors that increase the risk of injury such as: improper warm up prior to participation, insufficient functional strength within the hamstrings, fatigue and poor mechanics.
Hamstring strains range from mild to severe, according to the grade of strain. Muscle strains are categorized into 3 grades:
Grade 1 = mild strain, pulled muscle resulting in slight damage.
Grade 2 = a partial tear in the muscle or tendon
Grade 3 = complete tear of the muscle or tendon
Severity dependent, hamstring strains can heal within days or take up to a couple months. If severe enough, surgical intervention may also occur to reconnect the muscle and/or tendon. Following a suspected hamstring strain, pain and tenderness along with bruising may be present behind the leg. A grade 1 strain will exhibit pain and tenderness; however the muscular strength shouldn’t be affected. With a grade 2, along with the pain and tenderness, swelling, bruising and a loss of strength will be present. Grade 3 strains are often associated with a “popping” sound during the incident. Swelling, bruising and severe pain will occur. Individuals who suffer a grade 3 strain may also present with a gap or dent within the muscle region.
Treatment following a hamstring strain is severity dependent. Grades 1 & 2 can health themselves aided by the following: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Grade 3 strains may require more specialized interventions. Following the injury occurrence, it is advised that the individual partakes in rehabilitation to address any underlying issues, acquire the adequate strength necessary to help prevent re-injury.