Elite Facilities. Superior Care

The Hamstring - Strength, Length and Readiness

The hamstring is not only a marvellous unit, but a feared rival in our pursuit to be faster and quicker. Many have gone through the dreaded self-condemnation when trying to push that little bit faster and feeling that feared pull in the back of the thigh.

As we move into many sporting off-seasons, it is important to take note of a number of key points to ensure that when getting back into our sporting pursuits, we don’t fall victim to an injury of our hamstring muscle group.

The hamstring group is three muscles connected into one harmonious unit with each muscle playing a role individually yet also collectively. The group play an important role functionally with walking and running with a direct role of extending the hip joint and bending the knee. They also act as breaking force when our leg is bending forward.

Hamstring muscle injuries can be classified based on their location and size. Although imaging isn’t a reliable indicator of return to sport, it can be a useful modality to guide the location and size of an injury.

Key notes: (Brooks et al, 2006)

  1. 70% of hamstring injuries occur during high speed running.
  2. The other 30% occur during stretching type movements.
  3. Stretching type hamstring injuries ‘generally’ take longer to rehabilitate than high speed running type injuries.
  4. The tenderness felt to touch around the hamstring correlates with the site of the injury.

The time frames for return to play or activity can vary between individuals with two people tearing the same muscle to the same extent recovering at different speeds. This speed is determined by a number of factors including previous strength, muscle length and activities that an individual participates in.

Randomized controlled trials to date have shown that strength exercise and rehabilitation is the key to the management of this injury sub-group. (Brukner et al, 2013). A specific focus on muscle lengthening type strength exercises has also been shown to be superior to exercise that doesn't have a strong focus on lengthening. (Brukner, 2013) Research has also shown that eccentric strength is key, which is the capacity of the muscle to produce force whilst undergoing lengthening, with low levels of eccentric strength a risk factor for future hamstring injuries. (Opar at al, 2014)

Under the guidance of a trained sports physiotherapist, a management plan can be implemented to ensure a smooth and efficient return to activity. Without this guidance the risk of re-injury and delayed return to play is high. Addressing key biomechanical factors prior and post injury is important to ensure a successful return to play or activity.


If you have any questions regarding this post, or wish to book in to see our Senior Physiotherapists, please call us on 1300 858 774 or email contact@recoversportsmed.com.au

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