Track is back! With the arrival of spring, athletes are gearing up for numerous road races and track meets. Unfortunately, many athletes will experience injuries. One common injury is the dreaded pulled hamstring.
The hamstring muscle consists of three muscles and lies along the back of the thigh (femur). It attaches the pelvic bone to the lower leg (tibia) and crosses two joints (hip and knee). The hamstring muscle extends the hip backwards and bends the knee.
A hamstring tear usually happens during running when the foot strikes the ground and the hamstrings are on a stretch and maximally activated. People will report a sharp pain in the back of the thigh when a tear occurs. Some risk factors include: age, the older individual is more at risk of sustaining pulled hamstring, previous hamstring injury, and having poor strength and flexibility in the hamstring muscle can lead to increased risk of injury.
The degree of injury will determine the severity of injury. There are three grades of tears. A grade one is a minor tear while a grade three is a more severe tear and/or rupture of the muscle. With a grade one tear, patients will usually walk normally but will experience some discomfort. The muscle usually exhibits some tightness and discomfort on standing. Signs and symptoms of a grade two strain include pain and limping during walking, pain on bending the knee against resistance, pain on stretching and decreased flexibility and possibly some swelling and bruising. A grade three tear seriously impairs activity and patients may initially require crutches to ambulate. Occasionally surgery is required to repair the muscle. The more severe the injury, the longer the rehabilitation.
Immediate treatment includes the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises are incorporated into the rehabilitation in accordance with the healing process. Physiotherapy is the extremely beneficial in the rehabilitation of a hamstring strain. Knowing what exercises to do and when to do them is essential. Moreover, a physiotherapist will ensure the hamstring has sufficient strength and flexibility prior to returning to sports.
Written by Susan Reive, Owner of Kilborn Physiotherapy Clinic