Hamstring injuries are among the most common sports injuries according to a UnityPoint Health report. And they can affect anyone—from star athletes like the Houston Astros’ George Springer to the common weekend warrior enjoying a jog around the neighborhood.
No matter where you fit on the activity-level spectrum, you may be at risk of straining (also called pulling) or even tearing your hamstring. The hamstring, a group of three muscles located behind your thigh), becomes injured when it is stretched beyond its normal range or takes on a sudden load, like when you push off the ground when sprinting.
Hamstring injuries are graded as:
Here are five ways you can prevent a hamstring tear.
Muscles work by contracting, so they naturally tend to shorten and become “tight.” Stretching before exercising allows them to maintain a greater range of motion.
However, it’s not just about stretching your hamstrings. Your body is at its most efficient when every part works in concert with every other part. To fully ensure your hamstrings have the ideal range of motion, you will also need to stretch your glutes and lower back muscles.
Muscles fatigue when they’re used. Strengthening exercises like resistance training can make them stronger and increase their endurance.
It’s important to know that each muscle group has an opposing muscle group. For your hamstrings, it’s the quadricep muscles (quads) at the front of your thigh. Your quads are naturally more powerful than your hamstrings, and this imbalance causes your hamstrings to fatigue faster. That can lead to injury. Strengthening exercises are even more important as a result.
Like all muscles, overexerting your hamstrings increases the risk of strains and tears. Soreness after a workout or activity is normal, and it’s a good sign that your muscles have had enough and need a break. Listen to your body.
Despite your preventative care, it’s still possible to injure your hamstring. If it’s a minor pull or strain, follow the RICE method of recovery:
Also, it’s safer to spend more time recuperating than trying to quickly jump back into action. While you may feel better, you are more prone to re-injuring your hamstring, which can end up being worse than the initial strain or tear.
If your injury is more than just a strain, you may need surgery to repair the damage. An orthopedic surgeon, like Dr. Joshua Harris, is the best one to evaluate your situation and determine the proper course of action.
There’s such a thing as doing too much too soon. Easing into new workouts is an important part of staying healthy. Start easy and gradually work up the intensity.
If you do end up tearing a hamstring, it’s important to see a board-certified doctor, since hamstring tears share similar symptoms with strains. Dr. Joshua D. Harris is an international leader in orthopedic sports medicine living in Houston, Texas with extensive experience in repairing hamstring tears. He’ll visually inspect the area for signs of bruising, determine your pain level, watch your gait, and use such tests as X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds to diagnose the extent of your injury. He is also qualified to perform both endoscopic and open surgical repairs should he find evidence of a tear.
If you have a hamstring injury, call 713-244-6395 or request an appointment online with Dr. Harris to learn the extent of your injury and how to take the first step to recovery.