A strained hamstring is a common injury among athletes who rely on explosive speeds. This type of injury can be painful and hard to heal. Luckily, a hamstring strain can be prevented. This injury is basically a tear or strain in the tendons and muscles that travel along the rear part of the upper leg.
How hamstring strains occur
If you are wondering how one ends up with this injury, there are various factors that often play a role at the same time that can result to hamstring strains.
- Imbalance in the strength of the hamstrings and quadriceps. The quadriceps is naturally stronger than the hamstring and the amount of work they are able to carry out can lead to a strain.
- Lack of proper warm-up can increase the risk for a strain. Muscles that are cold and not stretched out that are required to contract at high intensity face the highest risk.
- In case one or both sets of muscles are tired from overtraining or from the demand of a particular sport, they are at risk.
- An activity that requires sudden bursts of speed needs substantial force from both the hamstrings and quadriceps.
All of these factors – lack of warm-up, muscle imbalance, fatigue and abrupt need for speed – can result to a hamstring strain. In addition, if the individual runs during cold weather, it can make it even worse along with poor technique that contributes to the overload of the muscles.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Intense pain at the back part of the upper leg or buttock at the time the injury occurred.
- Muscle spasms at the back of the leg after the injury occurred.
- Bruising and tenderness
- Possible snapping or popping sensation
- In grade 3 tears, there is a “ball” of muscle that forms on the back part of the leg.
Who is at risk?
Any athlete who depends on explosive leg action faces the highest risk for hamstring strains which includes runners, skaters and jumpers. Other sports where the injury is also common include soccer, football, baseball and basketball. Regardless of the sport, the older athletes are more prone than the younger ones.
Initial treatment for hamstring strains
- The individual should take a break from any activity. It is important not to put any weight on the affected leg. Crutches can be used if needed.
- Apply an ice pack on the affected leg for 15-20 minutes at 3-4 times throughout the day during the initial 72 hours.
- The affected leg should be raised or elevated when lying or sitting down.
- With an elastic wrap, wrap it around the upper leg for compression to help minimize the swelling.
- Provide the individual with pain medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin to reduce the pain and inflammation.
In case the pain is intense or the symptoms do not seem to subside within 2 weeks, it is best to set an appointment with a doctor.