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  • Writer's pictureKeshia Petersen

Help ! I've Pulled a Hammy

Updated: May 24, 2019



The hamstring is found at the back of the thigh and is made up of 3 muscles.

A Hamstring Strain occurs when there is a rapid contraction or quick lengthening of the muscle.



THE hamstring is made up of 3 muscles:

semitendinosis, semimebranosis and biceps femoris.

The function of the hamstring is to bend the knee and move the hip whilst running or walking.

Tears often occur where the muscle and tendon meets (musculotendinous junction), this is due to it being the point of weakness.

They are common in sports which require quick acceleration and deceleration (lengthening and shortening of the muscle) such as soccer, sprinting, rugby and high jump.



During running there is a point at which the hamstring reaches maximum tension when it reaches its peak length.

Research has shown that an imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings is the main cause for the hamstring to take strain (pull).

It is also found that high speed running can cause a hamstring strain.



When looking at the risk factors your physiotherapist will ask you a few questions which will determine which factors to address.

These are a few which we ask our patients:

- Have you had a previous hamstring or calf injury, this makes you susceptible to re-injury.

-Do you often complain of tightness over the front of your hip?

- Do you struggle with tight hamstrings?

These change the load placed on the hamstring muscle, when they work in synergy they are meant to exert equal load through your joints.



Your hamstring strain will present as sudden onset of pain that will range from mild to severe pain at the back of the thigh. You will have the sensation of tearing, if severe you will note swelling where the tear has occurred.

Tenderness, decreased movement of the knee will result due to weakness in the torn hamstring muscle (Don't panic, this is normal).

Rare symptoms associated with a hamstring strain are numbness and weakness. This can be due to swelling following your injury pushing on the nerve which runs through the hamstring.



Grade 1: You will feel a "pull" in the muscle this is due to only a few muscle fibres being torn.

Normal symptoms are mild pain, stiffness at the back of your leg, mild swelling can be noted but the movement of your knee should not be affected. You will be able to walk at a slow pace.

Your gait (walking) may be affected due to the hamstring being involved in your walking pattern.

Return to play can take up to 6 weeks.

Grade 2: Half of your muscle fibres are torn. If this is the case you will experience pain and decreased movement around the knee. Swelling and bruising is obvious at the area in the hamstring where it is torn.

Your gait (walking) will be affected and you will require crutches to assist you for 2 weeks.

Return to play usually takes up to 8 weeks of rehab.

Grade 3: If you have a grade 3 tear, book an appointment with your sports physician.

More than half of the muscle fibres are torn or a complete rupture occurs.

There will be obvious bruising and swelling which will develop in a few hours.

Your gait (walking) will be affected as there is obvious weakness in the muscle.

Return to play takes up to 12 weeks, depending on if you require surgery or not.



Your physiotherapist will guide you safely through your healing process. Our aim is to improve function and return you to your sport or activity.

There are many factors to consider when doing the rehabilitation and our focus is a global approach, by doing this we limit the risk of re-injury.

Our treatment will include soft tissue release, strengthening of identified weakened muscles and stretching of your hamstring.

Lastly we will ensure we take you through the process of integration with your sporting activity for a safe return to your sport.

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