A hamstring injury involves a tear or strain to the tendons or large-sized muscles at the rear part of the thigh. This is a prevalent form of injury among athletes and can occur at varying severities. A hamstring injury is graded as the following:
- Grade 1 – minor pull or strain on the muscle
- Grade 2 – partial tear to the muscle
- Grade 3 – full tear on the muscle
The time frame it requires to recover from a hamstring tear or strain depends on the severity. For a minor injury, it usually takes a few days to heal while grade 2-3 injuries can take months or weeks to recover.
What are the possible causes?
A hamstring injury can occur if any of the muscles or tendons are overly stretched. The injury often occurs during abrupt, explosive motions such as lunging, sprinting or jumping. It can also occur in a gradual manner or while engaging in slower movements that overstretch the hamstring.
A recurring injury is common among athletes since they are more likely to damage the hamstring if it has been injured before.
As long as an individual engages regularly in strengthening and stretching exercises and proper warm-up before activity, it reduces the risk for a hamstring injury.
Indications of a hamstring injury
- Grade 1 – abrupt pain and tenderness at the back of the thigh. There is pain when moving the leg but muscle strength should not be affected.
- Grade 2 – usually tender and painful with swelling and bruising at the rear of the thigh. There is minimal loss of strength in the leg.
- Grade 3 – the area is usually tender, painful, swollen and bruised. There is a popping sensation at the time of injury and difficulty using the affected leg.
Most injuries can be managed at home with the measures stated below.
Rest and recovery
The recovery from a hamstring injury usually takes days, weeks or months depending on the severity of the strain or tear. A grade 3 injury might take several months to heal and the individual could not resume sport or training during this period.
During the initial 2-3 days, the injury can be managed by the following measures:
- Rest – keep the affected leg immobile and avoid any physical activity. Crutches might be recommended in severe cases.
- Ice – apply an ice pack on the hamstring for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
- Compression – apply a bandage on the thigh to reduce any swelling and limit movement that can cause further damage. A simple elastic bandage or elasticized tubular variant can be used.
- Elevation – raise the leg using pillows or cushions to minimize the swelling.
Pain medications or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also alleviate the pain.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on a hamstring injury is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage muscle and joint injuries including a hamstring injury by taking a standard first aid course with Vancouver First Aid.