What is a Hamstring Tear?
The hamstring muscle group is composed of 3 separate muscles in the back of the thigh that run from our buttocks to past our knee. They specifically help to flex/bend the knee, but play more important roles functional activities such as running/sprinting, jumping and kicking which are prominent in a lot of sports around the world.
What causes a Hamstring Tear?
The main cause of a hamstring tear is either due to over-stretching the muscle or a overload of force on the muscle most commonly during acceleration or deceleration in sprinting. It is commonly a non-trauma incident and is due to your hamstring muscle either being too tight or not being strong enough for the task it is required to complete at the time and as it then becomes fatigued to a point where it tears. The most common sports we see this injury occur in are football, soccer, basketball and hockey. Some other risk factors for hamstring tears is having previously had one in the past and also recently having another lower limb injury such as an ACL reconstruction.
What are the symptoms of a Hamstring Tear?
A sharp sudden pain in the back of the thigh or buttocks whilst running, jumping or kicking. Depending on the size and location of the tear will also determine the symptoms you may feel after the injury. With moderate to severe tears you will experience bruising and swelling in the area. With more minor tears/strains you may only feel the sharp pain with no swelling or bruising. You may experience difficulty walking or weight bearing through the effected limb which will alter your gait pattern. For some types of tear there may also be pain with sitting when putting pressure through the proximal tendon of the muscle.
How does Physiotherapy treat Hamstring Tears?
Physiotherapy should be the sole treatment option for most hamstring tears. First we need to let the inflammatory phase take place and minimise its effects through anti-inflammatories, ice, compression and massage. We then focus on regaining the hamstring muscles length with some stretching and more massage. A rehab strengthening program will be followed rigidly from the outset to ensure the hamstring muscle returns to not only full strength but stronger then what it was pre-injury to minimise the chance of re-injury. Return to sport is decided on by your Physiotherapist who will gradually increase the amount of force applied to the muscle with running exercises and functional exercises.
What will we ask you to do to manage your Hamstring Tear?
Your Physiotherapist will ask you to complete the appropriate recovery protocols and ask you to complete exercises at home from Day 1 to help return to your sport/activity. The exercises must be done correctly and frequently to ensure best recovery. Regular check ins with your Physiotherapist is vital so they can progress your exercises and running appropriately. A common mistake we see by clients with hamstring tears is dropping out of treatment once pain with walking resides and they try to return to sport on their own, this is when re-injury mostly occurs.