Pulled Hamstring : Running Injuries

Injuries to the hamstring can occur in running through over-training, not warming up properly and sudden changes in speed or direction. Older runners or those who have sustained a previous injury are more prone to suffering from hamstring injuries.

The Hamstring Explained

The hamstring is a big, powerful muscle that runs down the back of the leg from the pelvis to the back of the tibia (shin bone). Its job is to flex the knee and extend the hip. It is a muscle that is relied on heavily in running.

What Causes a Pulled Hamstring?

If the muscle fibres are overstretched, they can become torn or even ruptured. Hamstring strains range in severity from a mild tear to a complete rupture of the muscle fibres. A pull or strain usually occurs when the hamstring is trying to contract but is being forced in the opposite direction at the same time by another force (i.e. the ground). The muscle fibres will become torn if the force is strong enough. Runners are more likely to suffer a pulled hamstring when sprinting or running fast. Running without warming up sufficiently beforehand increases the risk of injury because the muscles will be tight and less flexible.

What are the Symptoms of a Pulled Hamstring?

The symptoms depend on how serious the muscle tear is. When the injury is sustained, you will feel a sharp, intense pain in the back of the thigh. Muscle tears cause bleeding, resulting in bruising at the back of the thigh, which may even spread to below the knee and back of the foot if the tear is quite serious. Swelling will also occur, which will make bending and flexing the leg difficult. You may experience muscle spasms, which can be very painful.

How Can You Prevent a Pulled Hamstring?

There are lots of pre-training exercises runners can do to stretch and strengthen the hamstring, making it less prone to injury. Warming up properly is of course crucial in helping to prevent any kind of injury, because warmed up muscles are more flexible and work much more efficiently.

How is a Pulled Hamstring Treated?

Again, treatment depends on how severe the injury is. How the hamstring strain is treated in the first 48 hours after sustaining the injury is crucial in terms of how well it will heal. Runners should stop training immediately, rest the leg and apply ice to reduce swelling. Compression bandages will also help to reduce inflammation and prevent the injury from getting worse.  If the tear is quite severe, you may initially need crutches to help you walk. Physiotherapy treatment combining endurance exercises with gentle stretching will help to repair the hamstring and restore it to its full strength.

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