Why You Shouldn't Play Through a Hamstring Tear

Why You Shouldn't Play Through a Hamstring Tear

Hamstring injuries are common, especially among athletes, who account for nearly 40% of all muscle injuries. Athletes are especially prone to hamstring problems because many sports put a lot of strain on your thighs, hips, and knees — but many nonathletes can tear their hamstrings, too.

In Houston, Texas, Joshua D. Harris, MD, is recognized as a leading provider of cutting-edge treatments for hamstring tears and other hamstring injuries, including both conservative and surgical options. If you have a hamstring tear, “playing through the pain” is not a good idea.

A quick anatomy lesson

To understand hamstring injuries, it’s helpful to know about their anatomy and function. Most of us know the hamstring runs down the back of the thigh, but the anatomy is a bit more complex than that.

Although we often refer to the hamstring in a singular form, there are three different hamstring muscles — the semitendinosus muscle, the semimembranosus muscle, and the biceps femoris. All three muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvis and extend to just below the knee via the tough hamstring tendons.

Your hamstrings help you straighten your leg and bend your knee. They also play key roles in many types of leg movement, including making rapid turns or quick changes in direction (pivoting).

Understanding hamstring injuries

Most hamstring injuries happen when the thigh muscles are overloaded or strained beyond their normal capacity. Injuries are graded according to their severity.

Sometimes, a grade 3 tear is so severe it tears away part of the bone that attaches to the muscle. These injuries are called hamstring avulsions.

Anyone can have a hamstring injury, but strains and tears are most common among people with these risk factors:

Older athletes are also more prone to hamstring injuries, and so are younger athletes who are still growing.

Why you shouldn’t play through the pain

As with most injuries, ignoring symptoms and “playing through” dramatically increases your risk of a far more serious injury — even one that can result in permanent disability and an end to playing the sport you love. 

Instead of trying to “deal” with the pain and continue playing or practicing, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation immediately to begin treatment and prevent further damage.

Treating hamstring tears

Hamstring tear treatment depends a lot on the severity of your tear. While very mild grade 2 hamstring tears may respond to conservative treatment options, most grade 2 tears and grade 3 tears require surgery to repair the muscle and, in the case of an avulsion, repair the bone, as well.

If you have a grade 2 or grade 3 tear, your treatment initially involves conservative approaches to relieve your pain and reduce swelling in the muscle and the surrounding tissues. Typically, this treatment consists of RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Once your swelling subsides, Dr. Harris will evaluate your tear more comprehensively, recommending treatment based on the results. Surgery to repair hamstring tears involves suturing the torn ends of the muscle back together and removing scar tissue that might interfere with healing and recovery. 

For grade 3 tears that involve an avulsion of the bone, Dr. Harris repairs the bone using special techniques to reattach the fragment to the main bone. He also ensures the hamstring muscle is securely attached to the bone. All types of surgery are followed by physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and help you get back to your regular activities faster.

The right care for your hamstring injury

Dr. Harris is skilled in the conservative management of milder hamstring injuries and both “open” and endoscopic techniques for the surgical repair of hamstring tears. If you have a hamstring injury or if you suspect you do, don’t ignore it. Call 713-441-8393 or book an appointment online with Dr. Joshua Harris today.

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