Hamstring injuries are the most common soft-tissue injury to the thigh, and are often seen in runners, especially sprinters, hurdlers and long jumpers.  They also occur in sprinting sports such as football and hockey, especially after an inadequate warm-up.

The classic picture of a hamstring strain is when an athlete is sprinting down the track and stops suddenly, grasping at the back of the thigh.  Unfortunately, recurrence of hamstring strains is common and is usually due to inadequate rehabilitation.

The three most common causes of hamstring strain are:

  • Sudden, forceful change in muscle length (e.g. when sprinting – bringing the hip forward while straightening the knee puts extremely high loads on the muscle)
  • Sudden change in pace (e.g. rapid acceleration)
  • The lower back Either stiffness in the lower back or increased tension in the lower limb nerves can lead to hamstring problems. The lower back-related hamstring injuries make up a large proportion of hamstring problems and always require a thorough assessment to establish the degree of involvement of the lower back.

Management of hamstring strains depends on the severity of the muscle tear, and will involve the use of RICE in the first 48 – 36 hours. It is also important to maintain flexibility. Strength re-training must occur, and should always be under the guidance of your physiotherapist.