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Hamstring tears

What are hamstring tears?

The hamstrings are a group of four muscles on the back of the thigh in which they are injured during sprinting or an overstretching incident. Hamstring tears are associated with a  sharp pain at the time of the injury. The person may experience weakness and inability to stretch.  Restoration of the injury occurs within 7–10 days as the tear begins to heal. If symptoms persist it is important to seek help from your GP or physiotherapist.

What causes hamstring tears?

Hamstring tears can be caused by :

  • Age
  • Race
  • Hamstring weakness
  • Lack of flexibility of hamstring or hip flexors
  • Fatigue during sports participation
  • Possible previous injury to related area

How do I know if I have a hamstring tear?

You may have a hamstring tear if you have pain in the back of the thigh following a specific incident. A hamstring tear may be more easily recognised if there is bruising and this may track down to the back of the knee. Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose you by carrying out tests.

How can physiotherapy help with a hamstring tear?

Your physiotherapist will be able to explain to you what your injury is and how severe it is. You will be advised how long it will take to recover. A plan should then outline the following:

Initial management— RICE Techniques

  • Rest— do not do any activities that hurts your calf.
  • Ice—20 minutes every two hours, during waking hours, for the first two days.
  • Compression—use a compressive sleeve or bandage from the ankle up to the knee when not icing.
  • Elevation—put the leg above the level of the heart where practical.

The RICE technique is especially important for the first 4 days to ensure the injury does not get any worse.

Strengthening—a progressive program of exercises to regain the strength of the calf, this will be prescribed by your physiotherapist.

Running—a graduated program to build speed, agility, sport-specific skills and then return to training and finally sport.

Return to sport or physical activity guidelines and expectations

How effective is physiotherapy for hamstring tears?

Physiotherapy is effective for the management of hamstring tears as your physiotherapist can give you advice and a personal management plan that will allow you to return to your desired activity.

What can I do at home?

It is important that you follow the RICE technique as shown above and protect the area from further injury. Avoid alcohol and anti-inflammatory medication, as local bleeding is increased and healing is slowed. It vital that you do not stretch in the first 10 days.

How long until I feel better?

Often Hamstring Tears take 2–6 weeks to get better although this may depend on the individual. It is important that you rest and seek appropriate treatment followed by a graduated strength and running program.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.