Hamstring Injury : Athletic Injuries

The hamstrings are three sets of muscles at the back of the thigh that run from the base of the buttocks to the back of the knee joint. Called semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris according to their position at the back of the leg and their function in bending and stretching, these muscle tendons are susceptible to inflammation or rupture during athletic sports. Hamstring injury occurs most frequently when athletes forcibly flex the knee to move the thigh backwards or to extend the hip in running strides. Ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels attached to these tendons are also vulnerable to injury when walking, running or jumping.

Symptoms of Hamstring Injury

Strenuous movements, such as sprinting in athletic sports, can cause a sudden feeling of pain or weakness in the back of the leg accompanied by a snapping sound, when the tendon is injured. Control of the leg is lost because the hamstrings regulate leg movement and stretching or contracting the hamstring muscle will feel painful and tight. The athlete may find it hard to sit down too, or to walk upstairs. In severe hamstring injury, such as rupture of the tendon, swelling and bruising appear shortly after time of injury and crutches may be needed.

Injuries to the hamstrings are usually graded according to severity: Grade I minimal swelling, tightness and pain; Grade II limping, unable to straighten leg, and pressured pain with increased swelling; Grade II severe pain when bending the knee and needs a walking aid.

Causes of Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injuries can be caused by a number of factors: dehydration from low fluid intake; poor nutrition weakening the body muscles; athletic shoes lacking orthotic support; uneven terrain causing falls; stiff muscles from not adequately warming up before exercising; disproportionate gait or shifting of weight when moving; and fatigue from overexerting the hamstring muscles. Other causes are poor flexibility in the body, hip tilt and overstriding.

Medical Treatment of Hamstring Injury

When you have injured a hamstring muscle, it is hard to get up and walk. If the injury is mild, you can stop the athletic activity, rest the leg, wrap ice round the hamstring area, compress the muscles so that they are supported, and raise the leg to reduce swelling. Taking painkillers like paracetamol may reduce soreness.

When the swelling and pain persists, see your physician for an examination of your injury and to discuss how the hamstrings got pulled. If severe, your doctor will refer you for physical therapy and you may have to use crutches for a while with steroids to build the injured muscle.  Surgery may be the next step if rehabilitation is not successful or if you have recurring hamstring injury.

Preventing Hamstring Injury

Drinking lots of fluids and eating a balanced diet for athletes may help reduce spasms or cramp in the muscles. Warming up to increase muscle flexibility and following recommended athletic exercise techniques may reduce chances of hamstring injury. Resting during and between sporting activity is necessary to avoid straining the muscles.

Consulting a sports injury expert may help you understand your body’s athletic needs. Wearing thigh supports and orthotic aids in athletic shoes are also an option. Some athletes rub their muscles with warming-up gel too. These options can also be discussed with a physiotherapist or trained athletic coach.

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