Most people are familiar with their ‘hamstrings’, a group of muscles that run down the back of your thighs.

These three muscles work together to straighten your hips (hip extension) and bend your knees when you move. So they’re working during almost all activities that require the use of your legs.

The most common type of sports injury to the hamstrings is a muscle strain or ‘tear’ during a sudden change of pace, for example sprinting or a high kick.

Muscles have a good blood supply so they can heal quite quickly depending on the severity of your injury. A small hamstring tear (Grade 1 tear) that feels a bit tight or sore in the back of your thigh but doesn’t interfere with your walking will recover in a couple of weeks. Visible bruising and swelling over the injured area indicates a Grade 2 tear. You are likely to be limping and this type of injury takes longer to repair. A complete tear (Grade 3 tear) of one of the hamstrings is very severe. You will have to use crutches to walk initially and it can take a whole season to recover.

How to prevent a hamstring tear

There are lots of factors that can lead up to a hamstring injury but muscle imbalances, overtraining and deconditioning are three common issues we see in our Cambridge clinic.

Your hamstrings are supposed to help your buttock muscles (glutes) to move your hips but they shouldn’t have to do all the work. If you have weak or lazy glutes then your hamstrings have to work much harder than they should which puts you at risk of developing a tear.

Our muscles also need time to adapt to training. A sudden increase in your training routine or over training without sufficient ‘rest’ days means that your hamstrings may become tired and this weakened state makes them are more vulnerable to injury.

Finally muscles that are unfit (deconditioned) are more susceptible to injury. Strength and conditioning exercises should be an integral part of any training programme.  However, these exercises to have the most benefit they must be tailored to the demands of your particular sport. A physiotherapist that specialises in sports rehabilitation will be able to advise you but here’s one of our favourites:

Nordic curls for hamstrings  

Hamstring tear exercise to prevent injury

Hook your feet under something stable (or work with a partner) and bend your ankles, so your toes are tucked underneath you. Cross your hands initially across your chest, tuck your tailbone under slightly and draw in your abdominals. Lean forwards as far as you can, without pain or cramping, then lower down with control onto your hands. Push back with your hands for some momentum but use your hamstrings to lift yourself again. Repeat 5 times.

So if you’re keen to prevent a hamstring tear – or you’re recovering from one – we recommend strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, training steadily without sudden changes in volume or load and taking your rest days.

As always, please get in touch if you have any questions,

The Physiofit Team!