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Hamstring Strains

With many sports restarting, we thought it would be appropriate to talk about some of the most common sporting injuries. We will start with hamstring strains. 


Hamstring strains are common among sports that require a high degree of speed, power and agility such as soccer, basketball, netball and tennis. 


The hamstring muscles are located at the back of your thigh. They are a group of three separate muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus. They originate at the lower part of the pelvis, and attach to the back of your shin bones just below the knee joint. The hamstrings work to bend the knee and straighten the hip. They are extremely important in power activities such as running, jumping and quick changes of direction.


One of the major causes of hamstring injuries is an imbalance between the quadriceps muscles (at the front of the thigh), and the hamstring muscles. The quadriceps are a strong group of muscles which help to straighten the knee. These muscles may forcibly overstretch the hamstring which can place excess tension on the muscle.



Acute hamstring strains occur due to a sudden movement or force being applied to the hamstring muscles. You may sometimes hear a pop, or have the feeling as if you’ve been kicked in the back of the thigh. 


Risk Factors Of A Hamstring Strain


  • Previous hamstring injury

  • Increased age

  • Sudden change in direction

  • Muscle imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings

  • Poor flexibility

  • Decreased muscle strength

  • Lack of warm up before high speed activity



Signs And Symptoms Of A Hamstring Strain


Depending on the severity of the strain, hamstring injuries are classified as Grade 1-3.


A Grade 1 strain is a mild strain. This is when overstretching of the muscle fibres occur, however there are no tears. You will experience increased tightness in the muscle through range of motion and while stretching. You may feel pain when sitting, walking uphill or going up stairs. 


Grade 2 strains involve a partial tear in the muscle. Your pain will be more immediate and more severe than Grade 1 strains, and you may also have some swelling. Muscle strength and flexibility will be reduced. The muscle is usually sore to touch, and you will likely be limping. You may have difficulty straightening the knee fully.


A Grade 3 strain is a severe or complete rupture of the muscle. You may be able to feel a large lump of muscle tissue above a depression where the tear is. You will feel a sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh and you may develop bruising. You will experience pain with walking. Grade 3 strains may require surgical intervention.



Management


Immediate treatment of a hamstring strain should follow the RICER protocol. That is, rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral to a healthcare professional. You may also take anti-inflammatories to help with the pain and swelling. 


Rehabilitation will depend on the severity of the sprain. As a general guideline, Grade 1 strains will take 2-4 weeks, and Grade 2 will take 4-8 weeks. With a Grade 3 strain, the muscle may need to be repaired surgically but either way the rehabilitation may last up to three months.


Physiotherapy will help with your recovery from a hamstring strain. We will use manual therapy techniques like massage to help relieve your pain and promote optimum scar tissue formation. We will also use ultrasound, TENS and heat packs or ice for pain relief. We will guide you through a comprehensive rehabilitation program consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises to ensure you are able to return to your sport. We will assess sports specific activities such as twisting, jumping and changes of direction, and provide you with specific exercises for you to work on at home. We will guide you on when it is safe to return to sport, and how to best ease back into your training program. 



Prevention: How To Avoid A Hamstring Strain


There are many things you can do to help prevent injury to the hamstring. Firstly, you need to ensure you are warming up properly before your activity. Your warm up should include some light cardio, stretching of major muscle groups, and sports specific drills. 


Your training program must include speed and agility drills so that the hamstrings are able to cope with high acceleration forces. It must also include stretching and strengthening exercises for the hamstrings. 

Maintaining your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance to prevent muscle fatigue. When the muscles are fatigued, they are more susceptible to injury as they are unable to cope with the load placed through them. 


Allow adequate recovery time between training sessions, and ensure you are gradually increasing the intensity and duration of training. 


If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Give us a call on 9875 3760, or email us info@wphphysio.com.au. We would be more than happy to help!



You do not need a Doctors' referral in order to make an appointment with a Physiotherapist

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