What are the signs and symptoms of a hamstring tear? 

People often feel a sharp pain in the back of the thigh at the time of the injury which will usually stop them from continuing activity immediately depending on the severity of the tear. Pain is often accompanied by weakness and an inability to stretch due to discomfort. You may get bruising after you have torn your hamstring, the amount of bruising doesn’t always correlate with the severity of the tear. An assessment will help determine the severity of the tear and determine prognosis (predicted outcome).

What causes a hamstring tear? 

Hamstrings are commonly injured during sprinting or an over stretching incident.  Scientifically proven factors that lead to hamstring tears include:

  • Age (older athletes are more at risk).
  • Hamstring weakness.
  • Lack of flexibility of hamstrings or hip flexors.
  • Fatigue during sports participation.

It is important to especially note weakness coupled with lack of flexibility. – hamstrings work best when they are long and strong!

Another key risk factors is previous injury. As recurrence is a likely outcome, it is essential that subjects are given an appropriate strength and conditioning program to facilitate return to activity and minimise the chance of re-injury.

Treatment for a hamstring tear 

Treatment is dependant on how severe the hamstring tear is.

 Initial management(24-48 hours)  includes ice, compression, taping, pain medication or anti-inflammatories if needed and advised by the GP and gentle mobilisation.

Early movement has better long term outcomes with hamstring tears. After the initial phase return to normal walking is encouraged. Activities such as walking on inclines and walking upstairs should also be started as soon as able to tolerate as these positions will not compromise tissue healing.

Strengthening is implemented to regain full strength of the hamstrings. Globally other areas will be assessed and addressed as needed for example lumbar spine involvement, calf strength and glute activation.

If relevant to the patient a return to running program will begin when appropriate. This is a graduated program to build speed, agility, sport-specific skills and then return to training and finally sport.