The hamstrings are the three main muscles in the back of the thigh. They run from the top of your shin bone to the bony part in your buttock (ischial tuberosity). Their main purpose is to bend the knee though they also help extend (straighten) the hip. The most common Hamstring injury is a tear to the muscle belly. This is particularly common in sport and usually happens when sprinting. Classically the person will feel a sudden onset of pain in the back of the thigh or buttock that will cause them to ‘pull up’.
Have a look at this video for an example of this injury. It shows Usain Bolt injuring his hamstring in a 4x100m race:
Have I Injured My Hamstring?
If you suspect you have torn your hamstring it’s worth getting your doctor or physio to examine you. Most people don’t need a scan of their hamstring but if it’s suspected you have ruptured it or pulled it off the bone you may need further investigation. You will likely be tender to touch in the belly of the muscle and it will be painful to bend your knee against resistance. Your leg may be swollen or bruised.
Gauging how long a hamstring tear takes to get better depends on the severity of your injury so your therapist will guide you. Normally it takes between 6-12 weeks but can be more or less. The rehab for a hamstring tear usually involves trying to get your pain and swelling settled down initially, then rehabilitating the leg to ensure that the healing you get is as high quality as possible. If you have torn your hamstring, statistically you are more likely to tear it again. A good quality rehab programme followed by an injury prevention protocol should be initiated. We now know that ensuring your hamstrings are strong is more important than being flexible for reducing this type of injury.