Anyone who has ever suffered a hamstring injury will tell you that they’re no walk in the park. Although they vary in severity, the worst hamstring injuries can make it difficult to walk or even stand. Between the pain and lost mobility, a hamstring injury can leave you fairly debilitated or make it difficult to participate in activities you enjoy.
Though no one wants to tear their hamstring, there are ways to avoid injuring your hamstring. You can prevent an injury by understanding what causes hamstring injuries. Use the information below as a guide to understand, treat, and prevent hamstring injuries.
When you injure your hamstring, you need a great orthopedic surgeon on your side. Struan Coleman, MD, PhD, can help you get started on the road to recovery. Dr. Coleman and the rest of our team will make sure you receive the best orthopedic care possible, through initial diagnosis all the way to your final treatment. From hamstrings and knees to rotator cuffs and shoulders, Dr. Coleman can offer you expert care for any orthopedic injury.
The anatomy of the hamstring
The hamstring, as you probably know, isn’t actually a string. In fact, the hamstrings are the three muscles that run down the back of the thigh and help bend and extend the knee from the leg. They’re located in the back of your thigh – you can probably feel them working if you touch your thigh when walking or bending. They’re also a key part of helping you jump.
Although located behind the thigh bone (femur), your hamstring muscles are attached to the pelvic bone and leg bones (tibia and fibula).
Hamstring injuries are often caused by muscle overload, when the hamstring is overstretched or over-challenged. For example, look at a basketball player mid-game. Their hamstrings are being constantly stretched and loaded as they run the court and jump to shoot or block a shot. If their hamstrings are tight or fatigued, they’re at risk for a serious injury.
The risk factors associated with hamstring injuries include muscle tightness, fatigue, imbalance, insufficient conditioning, and participation in sports that require sprinting and running, dancing, and gymnastics.
Levels of hamstring injuries
There are three grades to hamstring injuries; they roughly correspond with the severity of the injury and how long it will take to heal:
- Grade 1: a mild muscle pull or strain (most common)
- Grade 2: a partial muscle tear
- Grade 3: a complete muscle tear
The worst injury possible for a hamstring is an avulsion injury. An avulsion injury occurs when the tendon connecting the muscle to the bone tears away and pulls part of the bone away with it.
Treating hamstring injuries
Grade 1 injuries take a few days of rest and care to heal. Grade 2 or 3 injuries can take months to heal and may require surgery to fully repair. When the muscles are partially or completely torn, Dr. Coleman will stitch them back together during surgery. Avulsion injuries require a more involved method, as Dr. Coleman will have to remove scar tissue, move the hamstring back into place, and reattach the muscles or tendons to the bone with staples.
Preventing hamstring injuries
If you want to avoid days, weeks, or even months away from your favorite activities, preventing a hamstring injury is key. Prevention tips include:
- Warm-up before activity and stretch afterward.
- Boost the intensity of your workouts slowly – Move too fast, and you can overexert your muscles.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain in the back of your thigh.
- Stretch and strengthen your hamstring to build flexibility and power.
If a hamstring injury is keeping you on the sideline, it may need surgery to properly heal. Dr. Coleman will have you back to full strength in no time. Contact us for an appointment at our Manhattan, Locust Valley, or Philadelphia offices today.