What is a Hamstring Strain?
A hamstring strain is a common leg injury involving a tear in one or more hamstring muscles. A hamstring strain can range from mild to very severe, involving a complete hamstring muscle tear.
You have four hamstring muscles: Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus (medially) and Biceps Femoris – short and long heads (laterally).
What Causes a Hamstring Strain?
Common reasons for a hamstring strain or injury can be primary or secondary.
The primary cause is a hamstring muscle timing issue. Essentially, intermuscular incoordination in the hamstring muscles during the switch phase. This switch phase occurs in late leg recovery and the initial swing phase. (Woods et al. 2004).
Lack of “stiffness” and eccentric strength in the hamstring muscles during the ground contact phase of running (Bosch and Klomp 2005). “Stiffness” refers to the ability of the hamstring muscle to absorb shock and rebound. Dropping a golf ball onto concrete is an example of stiffness. It immediately rebounds off the surface.
Previous hamstring strain is an excellent indicator of the potential for future injury (Crosier 2004).
Poor running mechanics. Usually, this is overstriding or poor pelvic control, which puts the hamstrings in a vulnerable position at ground contact.
Improper warm-up. Your warm-up must be active and dynamic to prepare the hamstring muscles for the forces involved.
Inappropriate training loads. Your hamstrings are primarily fast-twitch Type II fibres that fatigue quickly. It would be best to do high-speed work early in the workout to avoid fatigue, as close to warm-up as possible.
Fatigue (neural and local muscle).
Lower back pathology. Abnormalities of the lumbar spine or poor pelvic control cause nerve dysfunction, and subsequent muscle weakness can predispose you to injury.
Your playing surfaces. A wet slippery surface will put more strain on the hamstring due to slipping.
Kinesio Taping for a Hamstring Strain
Many patients will try thigh support or kinesio taping for hamstring strains. They provide confidence, warmth and proprioceptive feedback, which should reduce your likelihood of hamstring re-injury.
More info here… kinesio taping
Hamstring surgery is rarely required. It appears limited to complete ruptures or to remove scar tissue from chronic hamstring tears.
Hamstring Strain Recovery Times
While every hamstring injury and your sport’s demands differ, here are some general hamstring strain recovery times when you follow an optimal physiotherapist-guided rehabilitation program.
- Grade 1 – 1 to 3 weeks
- Grade 2 – 4 to 8 weeks
- Grade 3 – 3 to 6 months. These may also require surgery.
For more information, please ask the advice of your physiotherapist.
- Corked Thigh
- Thigh Strain
- Hamstring Strain
- ITB Syndrome
- Muscle Strain (Muscle Pain)
- DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Other Knee-Related Conditions
Common Youth Leg Injuries
Why are Children's Injuries Different to Adults?
Adolescent Leg Injuries
Adolescent injuries differ from adult injuries, mainly because the bones are still growing. The growth plates (physis) are cartilaginous (strong connective tissue) areas from which the bones elongate or enlarge. Repetitive stress or sudden large forces can cause injury to these areas.
In the adolescent leg, common injuries include:
Pain at the bump just below the knee cap (tibia tubercle). Overuse injuries commonly occur here. The tibia tubercle is the anchor point of your mighty quadriceps (thigh) muscles. Because of excessive participation in running and jumping sports, the tendon pulls bone off and forms a painful lump that will remain forever. This type of injury responds to reduced activity and physiotherapy.
More info: Osgood Schlatter's Disease
Pain at the lower pole of the knee cap (patella). Overstraining causes Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disease. Because of excessive participation in running and jumping sports, the tendon pulls bone off the knee cap. This type of injury responds to reduced activity and physiotherapy.
More info: Sinding Larsen Johansson Syndrome
Anterior Knee Pain
Anterior knee pain or patellofemoral syndrome frequently gets passed off as growing pains. Cause of this pain includes overuse, muscle imbalance, poor flexibility, poor alignment, or more commonly, a combination of these. Anterior knee pain is one of the most challenging adolescent knee injuries to sort out and treat. Accurate diagnosis and treatment with the assistance of a physiotherapist with a particular interest in this problem usually resolves the condition quickly.
More info: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
The cartilage between the leg bones has a better blood supply and is more elastic in adolescents than adults. As adolescents near the end of bone growth, their injuries become more adult-like. Hence more meniscal and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are likely. MCL (medial collateral ligament) injuries result from a lateral blow to the knee. Pain felt on the inner side (medially) of the knee. MCL injuries respond well to protective bracing and conservative treatment.
More info: Knee Ligament Injuries
ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries
This traumatic knee injury is significant. Non-contact injuries of the ACL are becoming more common than contact injuries of the ACL. Adolescent females are at high risk. Combination injuries with MCL or menisci are common. Surgical reconstruction is needed if the adolescent wishes to continue participating in "stop-and-start" sports.
More info: ACL Injury
Your meniscus is crescent-shaped cartilage between the thigh (femur) and lower leg (tibia). Meniscal injuries usually result from twisting. Swelling, catching, and locking of the knee are common. If physiotherapy treatment does not resolve these damages within six weeks, they may require arthroscopic surgery.
Heel pain is commonplace in young adolescents due to the stresses of their Achilles tendon pulling upon its bony insertion point on the heel (calcaneum). It is a common overuse injury due to excessive training and competition, particularly when loads are increased dramatically in a short period. Diminished flexibility and muscle-tendon strength mismatching may predispose you. Physiotherapy, reduced activity, taping and orthotics are the best ways to manage this debilitating condition for the active young athlete.
More info: Sever's Disease
An ankle sprain is probably the most common injury seen in sports. Ankles sprains involve stretching of the ligaments and usually occur when the foot twists inward. Treatment includes active rest, ice, compression and physiotherapy rehabilitation. With the correct treatment, a low ankle sprain usually improves in two to six weeks. Your ankle physiotherapist should check even simple ankle sprains to eliminate high-ankle sprains. A residually stiff ankle post-sprain can predispose you to several other lower limb issues.
More info: Sprained Ankle
Patellar (kneecap) instability can range from partial dislocation (subluxation) to dislocation with a fracture. Partial dislocation treatment is conservative. Dislocation with or without fracture is a much more severe injury and usually will require surgery.
More info: Patella Dislocation
The separation of a bone from its bed in the knee joint is Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). This injury is usually due to one major macro event with repetitive macro trauma that prevents complete healing. This injury is potentially severe. Treatment varies from rest to surgery. An Orthopaedic Surgeon's opinion is vital.
Growth Plate Fractures
A fracture through the growth plate can be a severe injury that can stop the bone from growing correctly. These fractures should be treated by an Orthopaedic Surgeon, as some will require surgery.
Image source: https://radiologyassistant.nl/pediatrics/hip/hip-pathology-in-children
An avulsion fracture occurs when a small segment of bone attached to a tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main bone. The hip, elbow, and ankle are the most common locations for lower limb avulsion fractures in young sportspeople.
Treatment of an avulsion fracture typically includes active rest, ice and protecting the affected area. This active rest period is followed by controlled exercises that help restore range of motion, improve muscle strength and promote bone healing. Your physiotherapist should supervise your post-avulsion exercises. Most avulsion fractures heal very well. You may need to spend a few weeks on crutches if you have an avulsion fracture around your hip. An avulsion fracture to your foot or ankle may require a cast or walking boot.
An excessive gap between the avulsed bone fragment and main bone may not rejoin naturally in rare cases. Surgery may be necessary to reunite them. In children, avulsion fractures that involve the growth plates also might require surgery. All avulsion fractures should be reviewed and managed by your trusted physiotherapist or an Orthopaedic Surgeon.
For more information regarding your youth sports injury, please consult your physiotherapist or doctor.
Youth Leg Injuries
Pelvis & Hip
- Osgood Schlatter's Disease
- Sinding Larsen Johannson Disease
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Patella Dislocation
- Meniscus Tear
- Discoid Meniscus
- Juvenile Osteochondritis Dissecans