Your hamstrings are a series of three muscles that start at the back of your knee and end under your hip. It’s common to damage your hamstring when playing sports or running — in fact, hamstring injuries are the #1 cause of injury in pro football, but even a growth spurt can cause problems for children and adolescents.
Dr. Struan Coleman has trained scores of athletes, and as the head team physician for the New York Mets, he’s expertly cared for team members over the course of many 162-game seasons — for over a decade.
He’s learned that no two hamstring injuries are alike, and he approaches each one with commitment, compassion, and deep knowledge of the most advanced medical technology and treatments available.
How to tell if you’ve injured your hamstring
Indications that you may have injured your hamstring include:
- Unmistakable intense pain in the back of your thigh
- Pain that emerges suddenly
- Audible popping sound
- Muscle weakening
- Limited mobility
Unfortunately, a hamstring injury can really put you out of commission, so you shouldn’t delay seeking care.
Different types of hamstring injuries
You can strain your hamstring, but you can also either partially or completely tear it. Just like it sounds, a tear occurs when your hamstring muscle fibers stretch to such an extent that they shred. On the other hand, if you sustain a strain, it means your hamstring stretched too much but didn’t tear.
These injuries are classified into three levels: A grade 1 hamstring injury is not serious and can usually be treated at home with the RICE approach, which is RESTING your leg, applying ICE, using an ace bandage or something similar to COMPRESS your injured area, and ELEVATING your leg to relieve pain and swelling.
Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter pain medication may also provide relief, as can a course of physical therapy.
A grade 2 injury is a partial hamstring tear, and a grade 3 injury is known as an avulsion injury, where the tendon that connects your muscles to your bone rips away, taking and displacing some of your bone. An avulsion injury requires surgery to repair it.
What can I do to avoid hamstring injuries?
Your chances of injuring your hamstrings are greater if you run or jump while your muscles are too tight or fatigued. You’re also at higher risk if you injured your hamstring in the past.
First, it’s important to warm up before you exercise by stretching and routinely engaging in leg strengthening exercises. Don’t increase the intensity of your workout drastically, take it slow, and, if at any time when you’re exercising, you feel pain in the back of your leg, stop your workout.
How are hamstring injuries diagnosed?
Dr. Coleman is nothing if not thorough when he approaches a hamstring injury diagnosis. He uses imaging tests to complement his careful physical exam, and gathers important information to make an accurate diagnosis of what type of injury you have and its severity. This informs his customized treatment plan.
Level of hamstring injury impacts treatment
If it turns out that your injury isn’t serious, Dr. Coleman creates a complete care plan that includes a combination of rest, home care strategies, and physical therapy, if necessary. If you have a partial tear, he determines whether surgery is needed. If you suffer a severe partial or full tear, he typically recommends surgery for reattaching torn tendons.
If Dr. Coleman diagnoses you with a grade 3 avulsion injury, surgery is essential. During the repair procedure, he gets rid of existing scar tissue, correctly relocates your hamstring, and uses stitches or staples to reconnect your tendon and muscle to your bone. Dr. Coleman wants you to be gentle with yourself for the weeks following the surgery.
Sufficient rest is critical to your healing, and physical therapy also plays a large part in your recovery. With new mobility and strength, you’ll be in disbelief at the level of activity you can enjoy again.
Contact our office if you’re experiencing hamstring problems. You can set up an appointment with Dr. Coleman easily by calling the office most convenient to you or scheduling a consultation through our website.