Hamstring Injuries – A Challenge for Injury Prevention in Sports 

Nov 26, 2016

When it comes to sports, hamstring strains are the most prevalent muscle injuries. Studies show that hamstring injuries alone account for between 6% and29% of all injuries reported in Australian Rules Football, rugby union, football, basketball, cricket and track sprinters. High prevalence of these injuries, prolonged duration of symptoms, poor healing responses and high risk of re-injury can be frustrating for an athlete.

Hamstring Strain

The hamstring muscles are the muscles in the back of the thigh that allow the knee to bend. These muscles turn into tendons as they come down and attach at the back of the knee.

Too much recent physical activity can cause tightness and inflammation, resulting in hamstring muscle strain. Hamstring injuries can also occur without predisposing trauma. Some people have tight hamstrings for a long period without knowing it.

In athletes, the most commonly strained muscle is of the hip. The side part of the hamstring group is the biceps femoris, which is the most frequent site of injury. The strain can also occur to the semimembranosus or the muscles on the middle side.

Symptoms of hamstring strain may include:

  • Pain in the back of the thigh
  • Popping noise or tearing sensation
  • Pain anywhere from the pelvis to the back of the knee
  • Muscle spasm and stiffness
  • Abnormal gait during walking, running, or climbing stairs
  • Bruising and swelling

Hamstring strains can be acute or chronic. With acute trauma, a person usually knows right away that they have been injured. Activities involving rapid acceleration and/or deceleration, such as sprinting, running hills, jumping, or involving sudden bursts of speed in such sports as football or basketball can cause acute hamstring strains.

Chronic hamstring strain results from repeated overuse and symptoms may present differently. The pain is less severe and there is little to no bruising or swelling. Previous injury, flexibility, strength, core stability, fatigue, and structure are the risk factors of hamstring strains.

Hamstring Injuries During Running

The occurrence of hamstring strain injuries during high speed running is generally believed to occur during the last phase of gait cycle. During the second half of swing, the hamstrings are active, lengthening and absorbing energy from decelerating limb as the foot prepares for contact. The stretching of the muscles contributes to the tendency to be injured during high-speed running. During recovery, proper rehabilitation is needed to safely handle high eccentric loading when a person returns to running.

Consequences of Hamstring Tears in Athletes

Hamstring injuries cause a lot of burden on athletes who sustain them because they need extensive treatment and rehabilitation before full recovery. This affects on player’s ability to continue to play their sport. In some professional sports, hamstring injuries are a particular concern because injured players are unable to compete and play for a considerable time.

Preventing Hamstring Injuries

There is no perfect way to completely avoid hamstring injuries. However, the risks can be reduced by paying attention to the principles of muscle strength and flexibility. Flexibility, strength, as well as endurance are essential for maximum performance.

Flexible muscles are less inclined to tear. Before any physical activity, it is important that the leg and back muscles are stretched and flexed to prevent pulled hamstrings. A regular stretching program and a period of warm-up and stretching is more effective if done with a help of a physiotherapist.

We can help minimise the risk of hamstring muscle injuries. Speak to any of our Perth physiotherapists at Happy Physio! Call 9444 8729 today!