Hamstring tears and related injuries are the most common injuries among athletes, and ironically, the most significant risk factor for injury is a prior hamstring injury. That means if your hamstring has been torn or strained in the past, you’re more likely to suffer a similar or more serious hamstring problem down the road.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Houston, Texas, Dr. Joshua Harris uses advanced treatment techniques for hamstring tears, helping patients heal properly and avoid future injury. Here’s what you should know about chronic hamstring injuries and how to prevent them from happening to you.
Hamstring tears occur when the hamstring tendons and muscles are overloaded or strained beyond their normal capacity. They’re more common among runners or other athletes who participate in sports that require a lot of running, jumping, or pivoting. They can also occur in people who become active after being relatively inactive or begin a new activity without properly training and strengthening their hamstrings.
Hamstring tears can be partial or complete, and treatment can vary depending upon the extent and severity of the tear. Because a mild tear can cause many of the same symptoms as a hamstring strain, tears are often misdiagnosed by doctors who don’t specialize in orthopedic injury. When a tear goes untreated or isn’t treated properly, it can leave weakness that makes the area more prone to future injuries.
Since hamstring tears (and hamstring injuries in general) are more common among people with weak hamstrings, strengthening your thigh muscles — front and back — is an integral part of prevention. But before you start scouring YouTube for exercise videos, take note: If you don’t exercise your leg muscles, you could cause injuries instead of preventing them.
Plus, since your hamstring muscles work “collaboratively” with your quadriceps, your gluteal muscles, and your core, you’ll probably do best with a combination of strengthening and balance exercises that address multiple muscles instead of singling out your hamstrings. As a top-rated orthopedic specialist, Dr. Harris will be able to point you in the right direction with strengthening exercises and physical therapy options to help you get the benefits without the potential risks.
Using a proper warm-up routine before sports and other physical activities can also go a long way toward preventing future hamstring injuries. Ensure your warm-up routine is geared to your sport and your ability, and don’t skip warming up, even if you’re running late.
Finally, don’t overdo it. No matter how fit you may be, your risk of injury still increases dramatically when you overextend yourself. Know your body’s warning signs, and if you’re trying a new activity or you haven’t been active for a while, remember to start slowly to avoid causing excessive strain on your muscles. And of course, schedule an office visit if you experience hamstring pain or persistent tenderness in your thigh or buttock.
Hamstring tears can be difficult to diagnose, partly because many mild to moderate partial tears can mimic other problems, like muscle strains. Unfortunately, when a tear goes undiagnosed, that means the injury itself — and its symptoms — can get a lot worse. The key to a quick and complete recovery is to see an orthopedic specialist at the first sign of injury, so care and treatment can begin right away.
Dr. Harris uses state-of-the-art techniques combined with a thorough physical exam to diagnose tears and strains, so your treatment plan can be customized to your needs. If you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms in your hamstrings, thighs, or buttocks, don’t delay care. Give us a call at 713-244-6395 or use our online form and schedule your office visit today.