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Hamstring Tears

Hamstring injuries are the most commonly reported injuries among athletes. Hamstring injuries can occur close to the hip, in the middle of the hamstring, or behind the knee. Hamstring tears can range from mild to complete

Hamstring Tears Hero Image 2

Hamstring injuries are the most commonly reported injuries among athletes. The hamstring is comprised of three muscles that run along the backside of the thigh:

• Semitendinosus
• Semimembranosus
• Biceps femoris

Each muscle of the hamstring connects at the hip, at the bottom of the pelvis, and at the knee. Hamstring injuries can occur close to the hip, in the middle of the hamstring, or behind the knee. Injuries to the hamstring are classified by grades, depending on the extent of the injury:

• Grade I: A mild hamstring injury involving a strain or pull of one of the hamstring muscles.
• Grade II: A partial tear of one or more of the hamstring muscles.
• Grade III: A complete tear of one or more of the hamstring muscles.

What causes Hamstring Tears?

Hamstring injuries are common in athletes with tightness in the hamstrings. Explosive movements, like jumping, or wear and tear from movements that strain the hamstring, like poor running mechanics that overstretch the muscle, can cause injury.

Hamstring injuries are common in these sports:

• Basketball
• Football
• Soccer
• Track and field
• Rugby
• Baseball
• Softball
• Tennis

Symptoms

You may have a hamstring injury if you experience sudden pain at the back of the thigh and one or more of the following symptoms:

• A popping sound
• Pain behind the knee
• Pain in the buttocks area
• Pain in the posterior thigh

This may indicate a partial or complete tear.

If you have symptoms of a hamstring injury, begin with the following treatments at home:

• Rest (if your pain is severe, you may need crutches)
• Ice the affected area throughout the day
• Stretch the leg

When to see a doctor

If your symptoms progressively get worse or do not heal, make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. During your appointment, your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms. He/she will examine the knee for pain over the area of the tear and pain while stretching and contracting the hamstring muscle.

In order to confirm the diagnosis, assess the severity of the injury, and rule out other injuries, your doctor may prescribe the following imaging tests:

• X-rays to rule out damage to the bones
• MRI to diagnose a more serious injury

Non-operative treatment

Grade I, grade II, and most grade III hamstring injuries are generally addressed with non-operative treatments, including:

• Rest
• Ice
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
• Stretching
• Physical therapy with a licensed professional

You can also try these exercises at home to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the hamstring:

Hamstring Tears

Surgical Treatment

If you have a severe injury to the hamstring, like a complete, grade III tear of the muscles at the hip level, you may be a candidate for surgery to repair the muscle. Surgery is rarely necessary for hamstring injuries.

During hamstring repair surgery, your doctor will reattach the muscle to its connection point on the pelvic bone or the lower leg bone through a small incision.

Recovery

The time it takes for you to recover from a hamstring injury and return to play depends on the severity of your injury:

• Grade I: Recovery from strains of the hamstring can take one to three weeks.
• Grade II: Partial tears of the hamstring can take four to eight weeks to completely heal.
• Grade III: Complete tears of the hamstring require approximately three to six months to heal. • With surgery, full recovery can take at least six months.

Recurring injuries to the hamstring are common after an initial injury. It is very important that you follow a rehabilitation program to regain your full motion and strength before you attempt to return to sports. In addition, it’s important to continue with an adequate stretching program to prevent future injuries.

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