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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

hamstring injury

Causes Of Hamstring Injuries

At Galway Bay Physio hamstring injuries are some of the most common injuries we see coming into the clinic. A hamstring injury is either a strain or complete tear of the muscles at the back of the leg that assist in flexing the knee. It is a very common injury among athletes especially of high speed running sports that often include sudden stopping and starting such as GAA, rugby, soccer etc. There are three different severities or ‘grades’ of hamstring injury. Grade 1 is a mild pull or strain, grade 2 is defined as a ‘partial’ muscle tear and grade 3 is a complete muscle tear or ‘rupture’. The level of pain, length of recovery time as well as extent and type of rehabilitation depends on which grade of injury you are experiencing. Generally, a grade one can take from a few days up to a fortnight, a grade two can take some weeks and a grade 3 can take months to fully heal and return to sport if that is the goal.

Signs And Symptoms

The main symptoms of damage to the hamstrings are sudden and severe pain during exercise, a snapping  sensation may be described in more severe tears as well as pain at the back of the thigh when walking or bending over. Aside from these people may also see bruising and feel weakness in the muscle. To firmly diagnose a hamstring injury and differentiate it from other injuries in the area like knee meniscal tears one of our physios will perform a thorough subjective and then objective exam of the area.

To reduce the risk of pulling your hamstrings you should perform a thorough static and dynamic stretching and warm up of the lower limbs prior to exercise.  If you are getting repeated minor grade one injuries you may need to assess if there are other contributing factors. These may include tight quad muscles which can pull your pelvis forward and tighten the hamstrings as well as weak glute muscles can cause the hamstrings to become overloaded and strain.


Hamstring injuries are initially treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (known as RICE) and alternating ice and heat has also been proven to be helpful. Medications to reduce pain and inflammation such as ibuprofen may be helpful but you much check with your GP if it is ok to take this if you have any underlying medical conditions or are on prescriptions medications. After RICE treatment of up to a week, physiotherapy is required to increase range of motion and to return the muscle to full strength and activity if required. This will incorporate deep soft tissue and friction massage to realign scar tissue, trigger point release work and dry needling as well as home exercise programmes to rehabilitate the muscle . Adherence to these programmes is very important because if the hamstrings do not return to full function, they are at risk for recurrent injury and developing chronic pain and weakness. Occasionally, surgery may be required to repair fully ruptured hamstrings to reattach them.

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