What is a hamstring tear or strain?
Hamstring muscle tears are a very common lower limb injury, impacting all different types of people and sports. Oftentimes, injury is due to a stretch mechanism, a contraction mechanism or a combination.
A classification system has been used to determine where the injury is and the extent of the injury. I always recommend seeing a health professional to assess and evaluate an injury.
As per the British Athletics Muscle Injury Classification system, muscle tears can occur on a scale of 1-4 and within three areas: myofascial, musculotendinous or intra-tendious (see the image below). This gives clinicians and patients a better understanding of the injury type, the rehab needed and the healing timeframe(1).
Without MRI, a clinician cannot be 100% positive on the diagnosis, but can still determine a treatment pathway. Measures that are used in clinic to determine injury type and progression through rehab include: loss of range of motion, tension/contraction ability, pain, bruising, swelling, the mechanism (how it happened), the sound/feeling at the time of the injury, previous injury and type of sport(2).
This is general information regarding hamstring tears, and I recommend seeing a healthcare professional for a diagnosis
General muscle tears and strains – grade 1, 2 or 3 muscle tears
A hamstring tear, also known as a hamstring strain, is a common sports injury that involves the tearing or stretching of the muscles and tendons in the back of the thigh. A tear in these muscles can range from mild to severe and is often categorized into three grades:
- Grade 1: Mild strain, with minimal tearing of muscle fibers.
- Grade 2: Moderate strain, involving a more significant tear of muscle fibers.
- Grade 3: Severe strain, where the muscle is often completely ruptured.
What are some symptoms you may experience?
You may have experienced some of these symptoms from a hamstring tear:
- limited range of motion in the affected leg
- you may have trouble walking
- you may have fell down after the injury if it was severe
I always recommend seeing a physiotherapist to diagnose your injury.
Treatment timeframe for a hamstring tear injury
Treatment will differ depending on the injury and severity. Healing timeframe for a hamstring tear can be anywhere from one week (mild injury) to 6 months (for a more severe injury).
Exercises for hamstring strains or hamstring injury recovery
Did you just injure your hamstring or have you been dealing with hamstring pain for a while? These exercises might be the best to help you recover from your hamstring injury.
General recovery guidelines – however, this is not specific to a graded hamstring tear injury:
- range of motion of the hamstring
- squats and step ups within tolerance
- isometrics within tolerance
- normalizing walking
- double leg exercises, progress to single leg when able
- resistance through range of the hamstring as tolerated
- weighted squats and single leg squats as tolerated, glute bridges, calf raises and maintaining strength in the hip
- hinge movement patterns starting double leg and progressing to single leg
- lengthening as tolerated
- Weighted deadlift and hinge position exercises
- Hamstring bridges through range and weighted isometric holds
- Re-introducing plyometrics and running relevant to the patient and sport goals
- Progressing back to full deadlifts, RDLs, hip thrusts, kettlebell swings
- Including variations and modifications of nordic hamstring curls, razor curls, harop curls, all to tolerance of the patient
- build up to full speed sprinting through a gradual and phased running and sprinting introduction program
- Increasing rate of force development through weighted exercises like RDL drop catch, hamstring bridge switches and hamstring tantrums
- Inner range hamstring strength
- Cutting, change of direction, unplanned movements and sport specific training