Home >Upper Leg (Thigh) > Posterior (Back) Thigh
Hamstring muscle strain/rupture
The hamstrings form the group of muscles at the back of the thigh. A hamstring strain is caused by an over-stretch, tear or complete rupture of one or more of the three hamstring muscles (e.g. when sprinting from either a jog or a standstill position). Hamstring strains are common in sports that require explosive stop-start running motions (e.g. rugby, netball and athletic sprinting events).
Hamstring strains occur as a result of too much force being placed on the hamstrings muscles during exertion. This occurs often when the hamstrings are tightening to slow the legs forward swing during running. They are common amongst sprinters, jumping sports, footballers and hockey players. Hamstring strains or ruptures may occur due to, muscle weakness and tightness or lumbar spine tightness.
Hamstring strains frequently occur at the beginning of a game/training session due to inadequate warm-up, or near the end of the game/training session when fatigue is a contributing factor.
Symptoms include a sudden, sharp stab during exertion with swelling and bruising increasing in the hours following. Pain will increase with contracting or stretching the injured muscle. Hamstring strains may become recurrent if adequate stretching and strengthening is not achieved before return to sport.
Poor rehabilitation can leave inflexible scar tissue making it prone to re-injury. Hamstring injuries often recur and can become long-term injuries if rehabilitation is inadequate or the progression of rehabilitation is too fast.
Referred pain in this area will tend to be less that of a strain and will be poorly localized. The sacroiliac joint and lumbar spine tend to refer pain to the hamstring area. Tightness in the hamstring as well as lumbar, buttock and calf pain may or may not accompany the hamstring pain. Pain may be shooting or a dull ache and may or may not be constant.
This problem is commonly encountered by short distance sprinters or after an inadequately managed hamstring strain. The upper part of the hamstring is most commonly affected and symptoms are subsequently felt in the buttock. Pain will tend to arise slowly after exercise and may feel like a deep burning or sharp pain, low down in the buttock. As the injury progresses untreated, weakness and tightness may be felt in the hamstring area (back of the thigh). Pain may ease in the short term with light hamstring stretching.
Strengthening programs should only be commenced when:
Exercises should be 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Early Injury Management
For approximately the first 72 hours following an injury, the RICE regime should be followed to ensure control of inflammation and pain relief.
R - Rest
I – Ice
C - Compression
E – Elevation
Rest from aggravating activity.
Ice should be applied in the first 72 hours or when inflammation persists. Ice should be applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin, but through a wet towel or cloth.
Compression can be achieved with an elastic bandage.
Elevation is used to help swelling to return to the heart through the blood stream.
The injured area should be elevated above the level of the heart.
Restoring normal range of motion will allow proper function of the hamstrings and maximise use and strength following a return to sport. Stretching the hamstrings will help to restore the length of the muscles, reducing the risk of further injury and assist performance. Initial stretching should be limited by pain. Longer stretches (10 to 20 seconds) held at positions of greater stretch should be performed as comfort permits. A level of flexibility equal to or greater than the opposite leg is desirable before return to competition. Continued stretching during the season will help to maintain flexibility and minimise the risk of further injury.
2. Gastrocnemius Stretch
Strengthening the hamstrings and other lower limb muscles is essential to restore proper function in the lower limb. Pay particular attention to developing a good strength balance between the quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and the hamstrings. Strengthening of the gluteus maximus (buttocks) and gastrocnemius (long calf muscle) is also important. Holding the leg in a fixed position for 10 to 20 seconds (isometric exercise) is safe until the wound is significantly healed and also prevents muscle wasting. As improvements allow, active (self-movement) and functional strength exercises should follow. Some strength exercises also need to be performed as the muscle lengthens (eccentric work) and/or at fast speeds to gain improvements. This kind of strengthening will ensure minimisation of re-injury when kicking a ball or slowing down when running. Strength can be measured by contracting against resistance provided by another person. Ask them to make a comparison of strength between legs.
1. Hamstring Curl
2. Squat (Quadricept and Gluteal Strength)
3. Calf Raise
1. Exercise Bike
Running Program for Hamstring Rehabilitation
This program is designed to help condition the hamstring, enabling it to manage the rigors of competitive sport following injury.
Further Injury Prevention