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Hamstring strain exercises to heal a strain fast.

Living with a hamstring strain is a pain. What’s more, they tend to happen during activities that we love, such as sports, hiking, or running. Injuries often happen suddenly, and can be pesky and easy to reinjure. If you’re like most of us, you don’t want  a long, complicated path to recovery if you can avoid it – you want to know how to heal a hamstring strain fast!

Whether you’ve been dealing with your hamstring strain for three days or three months, there are a few simple things you can do at home to get back on the road to recovery. This post will provide you with the knowledge of understanding what they are, how to treat hamstring strains, and how to prevent hamstring strains in the future.

Note, we’re planning to cover a lot of background information about hamstring strains, causes, and prevention in this post. To skip directly to the exercise program, click here.

Hamstring injury is extremely common

Hamstring strains are the most common injury in sports. According to a 2020 meta-analysis, hamstring strain injury represents a whopping 37% of all muscle traumas in professional sports! This should come as no surprise, as the hamstrings are a muscle group that is a prime mover in all locomotion. Jumping, running, sprinting, or even getting up out of a chair heavily involve the hamstrings in conjunction with other major muscle groups in the lower body.

The hamstrings are a muscle group that involves 3 muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. This muscle group is located at the back of your thigh. These muscles are 2 joint muscles which mean they pass the glenohumeral joint (hip) and the tibiofemoral joint (knee). The hamstrings perform the movements of hip extension and knee flexion. As a result, they are more susceptible to strains.

The hamstring muscle group.

What is a muscle strain?

A muscle strain is a general term for an injury to the muscle, such as overstretching or tearing. This injury can be in the muscle belly or the tendon where muscle connects to bone. Muscle strains are also referred to as “pulled muscles.” Anyone who has pulled a muscle before knows that there are varying degrees of injury this could be referring to:

Muscle tear grades of injury

There are 3 grades of a muscle strain that determines the level of severity and length of recovery.

Grade 1 is an overstretched muscle or tendon. This grade only involves very few fibers of the muscle. It is common that pain and tenderness occurs the day after the injury.

Grade 2 is a partial thickness tear that involves half of the muscle fibers. This grade is accompanied by acute (early on) swelling and tenderness.

Grade 3 is a full thickness tear or also referred to as a complete tear. This grade means that there is a full tear which can occur at different locations. It may be located at the muscle belly involving all the fibers. Or at the muscle and tendon junction where the tendon is completely separated from the muscle. Grade 3 muscle strains have immediate intense pain, swelling, and loss of function. Note, this grade would involve surgical intervention. Do not try the program listed below if you’ve got a Grade 3 tear.

Hamstring Strain Symptoms

How to know if your pain is a hamstring tear? Some of the symptoms are listed below. Note that symptoms of a hamstring strain may vary in level of severity depending on the grade and location of the tear.

The symptoms include:

Potential causes of hamstring strains

Most hamstring strains involve athletic or physical activity. If you’ve got one, there’s a good chance you know exactly when and how it happened. Here are some potential risk factors for hamstring strains:

Who is most at risk for hamstring strains?

As we’ve mentioned above, hamstring strains and tears are most commonly associated with athletics and physical activity. That being said, nothing below should come as a surprise. However, there do seem to be certain sports where hamstring injuries crop up more commonly:

Hamstring strain treatment options: What can you do?

Most of us are familiar with the RICE protocol, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In addition to the basic RICE protocol, avoid activities that cause increased pain, discomfort, or swelling.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen may prove helpful in the beginning. However, it’s important not to rely on these medications in the long-term.

Physical therapy

Attending physical therapy for a hamstring strain will provide you with a detailed treatment plan that would include modalities, therapeutic exercise, therapeutic activity, and manual therapy. This plan is outlined by the Physical Therapist during the initial evaluation during your first visit. Each treatment plan is unique to the individual.

Modalities include ice, electrical stimulation, heat, and ultrasound. Ice would aid in decreasing edema and pain during earlier days of injury. Electrical stimulation would help with pain relief. A moist hot pack would be beneficial in later days of healing to increase blood circulation, decrease pain, decrease muscle spasms, and improve soft tissue mobility. Ultrasound is beneficial in improving circulation around the injured muscle fibers.

Therapeutic exercise is a vital component in rehabilitation. Exercise promotes increased blood flow to the site of injury which aids in healing. Exercise also helps in improving strength, muscle extensibility/elasticity, joint stabilization, balance, proprioception, and endurance. Bonus is that exercise releases endorphins which helps boost your mood! It also promotes better sleep which is a contributing factor in recovery.

Therapeutic activity includes functional tasks such as bending, lifting, and squatting. This will involve more dynamic activities to improve functional mobility. Patient education will be incorporated in therapeutic activity to ensure patient is performing activities with proper form, speed, muscle activation, posture, body mechanics, and lifting techniques. This plays a role in prevention of reinjury.

Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment performed by the Physical Therapist or Physical Therapy Assistant to address musculoskeletal pain. Initially, manual therapy for a hamstring strain will be gentle and performed to facilitate healing and reduce swelling. Following the acute phase, manual may consist of some deep friction massage to break up any scar tissue, stretching, and instrument assisted techniques.

Hamstring Strain Exercises

Now, for the portion of the post you’ve hopefully come to see. We continually find in physical therapy that those who are willing to engage in regular therapeutic exercises for hamstring strains will have the best outcomes and lowest reinjury rate.

Below is a quick exercise program that should take you less than 20 minutes to complete and should get your hamstring recovering. The exercises outlined are for the acute phase of recovery, meaning early intervention. There is a ladder of progression to be followed once symptoms are managed and you feel ready to progress.

Hamstring Stretch

Provide a gentle stretch to the hamstrings with this hamstring stretch. You may have seen this one in a few of our other posts. Of course, there are many ways to stretch the hamstrings, but this is our favorite for rehabilitation purposes. Laying on the back allows a gentle stretch with no load, unlike a sitting hamstring stretch which can be too aggressive in the beginning. Use your judgment with this one.

How to do it: Lay on your back and bend the uninvolved knee to take pressure off your back. The involved leg stays straight and you hook the strap on the bottom of your foot. Using the strap with your arms, raise your leg while keeping your knee straight until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Note: Stretching should not be painful. If you are experiencing pain, you are going too far into the stretch. Recovery is a process. It’s better to do what you’re capable of today, understanding that you’ll be able to build on it over time.

A gentle hamstring stretch.

Prone Hamstring Curls

Here’s a great exercise to gently activate the hamstrings. If you’ve ever used a hamstring curl machine in a gym, you’ll notice that this exercise is very similar. The difference here is that we’re not using any added external weight or resistance.

How to do it: Position yourself on your stomach. For comfort have your feet off the edge of your bed. Slowly bend your knee to 90 degrees and lower back down to your bed. This exercise should be performed at a controlled pace. Perform 3 sets of 15 to 30 repetitions, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

The start position for a hamstring curl.

Straight Leg Raises

This exercise is fantastic for reintroducing some strength to the hip flexors and quadriceps. You’ll notice a trend here – like the other exercises, we’ve chosen an exercise that involves laying on the back and not using external resistance. Remember that we’re talking about the initial phase of recovery after a hamstring injury. There’s plenty of time to reintroduce normal strengthening activities later.

How to do it: Lay on your back and keep the affected leg straight. Bend the unaffected leg leg, and raise the affected leg to the height of your other knee. This exercise should be performed at a controlled pace. The involved knee needs to stay straight. Perform 3 sets of 15 to 30 repetitions, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

The start position for a straight leg raise.

Hip Adduction- Ball Squeezes

Strengthening the musculature surrounding the hamstrings will help the hamstrings do their job and not get overloaded in the future. Ball squeezes are a great way to strengthen the hip adductors, the muscles on the inner thigh.

How to do it: Position yourself on your back with your knees bent. Place a ball or folded pillow in between your knees. Squeeze into the ball or folded pillow and hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat for a duration of 3 minutes.

A ball placed between a patient's legs for the hip abduction exercise.

Hip Abduction

This exercise will help strengthen your glutes, allowing them to assist the hamstrings and prevent muscle strains in the future.

How to do it: Position yourself on your back with your knees bent. Tie the TheraBand around your knees to where there is no slack. Pull your knees apart, keeping your feet together. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for a duration of 3 minutes.

A band wrapped around a patient's legs for the hip abduction exercise.

Hamstring strain recovery time

One of the most common questions we get about hamstrings is regarding how long it takes to recover from a hamstring strain. As with all things recovery related, the answer is it depends. The length of recovery is dependent on the grade of muscle strain, location, and individual characteristics such as age, comorbidities, compliance, activity level, etc. However, we can provide a few guidelines:

Typically you will see progress within a few days or weeks for grade 1 muscle strains. As for grade 2 muscle strains, you are expected to see progress within a couple weeks. Grade 3 muscle strains will require surgery which results in a longer recovery.

If you have a history of pulling muscles, you will want to allow ample amount of time to heal before returning to sports or higher activity levels. However, once you’ve recovered, it’s important to understand how to prevent muscle strains in the future.

Ensure that you have a proper warm up routine before exercise and a cool down following. Keep up with the stretches in this article daily. As far as strengthening goes, you are welcome to step up to heavier or more aggressive strength exercises after you’ve noticed a full recovery. 

Lastly, staying hydrated is essential as water is needed to move and flex your muscles. If dehydrated, the likelihood of cramping and injury increases.

If the above exercises do not provide relief or improvement within 6 weeks for a grade 1 or 2 injury, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician or sports medicine doctor. We also recommend scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist near you. If you are located in the Phoenix metro area we have many locations to serve you. Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions or would like to set up a consultation!

Kourtney Brown, PTA

Kourtney Brown, PTA

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During the physical exam, a health care provider checks for swelling and tenderness along the back of the thigh. Where the pain is and how bad it is can give good information about the damage.

Moving the injured leg into different positions helps a provider pinpoint which muscle is hurt and whether there is damage to ligaments or tendons.

Imaging tests

In severe hamstring injuries, the muscle can tear or even separate from the pelvis or shinbone. When this happens, a small piece of bone can be pulled away from the main bone, known as an avulsion fracture. X-rays can check for avulsion fractures, while ultrasound and MRI s can show tears in the muscles and tendons.

More Information

Hamstring stretch

To stretch the hamstring muscles, extend one leg out in front. Then lean forward to feel the stretch in the back of the thigh. Repeat with the other leg. Don't bounce.

The first goal of treatment is to reduce pain and swelling. A health care provider might suggest the following:

Physical therapy

Your health care provider or a physical therapist can show you how to do gentle hamstring stretching and strengthening exercises. After the pain and swelling go down, your provider can show you how to do exercises to build more strength.

Most hamstring injuries that involve partial tearing of the muscles heal over time and with physical therapy. If the muscle has pulled free from the pelvis or shinbone, orthopedic surgeons can reattach it. Severe muscle tears also can be repaired.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To care for a minor hamstring injury yourself, try the R.I.C.E. approach:

Pain medicine you can get without a prescription, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), also might help. After a few days, gently begin to use the injured leg. Your leg's ability to support your weight and your ability to move without pain should get better over time.

Preparing for your appointment

You might first talk to your own health care provider. You might be referred to a provider who practices sports medicine or does orthopedic surgery.

What you can do

Make a list that includes:

What to expect from your doctor

Your care provider might ask some of the following questions:

Associated Procedures

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Physical Therapy for a Hamstring Strain

PT Treatment

If you have a hamstring strain or tear (the terms can be used interchangeably), you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist (PT) to help you fully recover. Your PT can treat your pain and prescribe exercises that can help you recover your normal range of motion (ROM) , strength, and overall functional mobility .

So what does PT involve for evaluation and treatment of a hamstring strain?

Understanding the symptoms of a hamstring strain can help you get the right treatment at the right time. Typical symptoms of a hamstring strain may include:

The pain you feel can range from mild to severe, and the exact location of symptoms may vary from person to person. If you suspect you have a hamstring strain, you should get to your healthcare provider right away to start on the proper treatment.

Symptoms of a hamstring strain may come on suddenly, typically as the result of a quick motion that occurs with running or cutting maneuvers while participating in sports. Occasionally, you can suffer a hamstring strain by simply moving the wrong way while getting up from a chair or while walking and running.

So what is going on with your hamstring muscle when you have a strain? The muscle or muscle-tendon interface is actually suffering from a tear. The collagen fibers that make up your muscle pull apart, and bleeding into the tissue may occur.

Your body then immediately goes into “repair mode” using the inflammatory process . This process involves:

You can help the repair process along by doing the right things—at the right time—to get your hamstring moving and functioning properly.

First Steps Towards Recovery

If you suspect you have a torn hamstring, you should take some initial steps to get going on the path to recovery. These may include:

By starting the right things at the right time, you can safely regain your mobility and get back to your normal activities.

How Severe Is Your Hamstring Tear?

So how do you (and your PT or healthcare provider) know how severe your hamstring strain is? Hamstring strains and all muscle strains and tears are graded on a three-tiered system. The three grades of muscle strains include:

Your healthcare provider may examine your condition and may order special tests, like an MRI, to determine the full severity of your hamstring strain. Sometimes, no diagnostic tests are ordered, as the signs and symptoms of your hamstring strain may be readily apparent to make the diagnosis.

Physical Therapy Evaluation

When you first visit a PT for treatment of your hamstring strain, he or she will conduct an initial evaluation to gather information about your condition and to determine the best treatment. Components of a PT evaluation for hamstring strain may include:

Your physical therapist will use the results of the evaluation to form a specific plan of care for your hamstring strain rehab. He or she will also work with you to set reasonable goals for your hamstring rehab.

After your PT works with you to develop a specific treatment plan for your hamstring strain, they will start treatment. The main goals of PT for a hamstring strain include restoring normal flexibility and ROM, regaining normal strength, controlling pain and swelling, and helping you get back to optimal function.

There are many different treatments and modalities that your PT may choose to use for your hamstring strain. These may include:

Therapeutic Exercise

The most important treatment your therapist can offer you is a therapeutic exercise. Your PT will prescribe specific exercises for you to do in the clinic, and a home exercise program will likely be prescribed for you to do on a regular basis. This helps you take control of your hamstring strain rehab and puts you in the driver’s seat with your care.

Exercises for a hamstring strain may include:

Your PT should explain to you the rationale for each exercise you do, and he or she should make sure you are exercising correctly. If you feel any pain or have questions about your exercises, speak with your physical therapist.

How Long Will It Take to Get Better?

Hamstring strains can be one of those nagging injuries. Research shows that the typical hamstring strain gets better in about 40 days or so. Your specific injury may take longer or shorter depending on the severity of the strain.

One problem with hamstring strains is that they may be re-injured if not rehabbed properly. Recurrence of hamstring strains usually happens within the first year of injury. Working with your PT to learn the right exercises to do can help you minimize your chances of hamstring strain re-injury.

Is there a way to prevent or minimize your chances of suffering a hamstring injury? There may be. Research shows that people who maintain good hamstring strength (especially eccentric strength), may be less likely to strain their hamstring.  

Eccentric strength is when your muscle contracts while it is lengthening. The Nordic eccentric hamstring exercise, although difficult to do, has been shown to decrease the incidence of hamstring strains in elite athletes.

Performing agility drills, like the single-leg hop exercise and the drop jump exercise may also help you prevent hamstring strains. Being able to jump, run, and perform high-speed starting and stopping may help train the hamstrings to work properly while participating in sports.

There may be a protective effect of maintaining good mobility, muscular control of the hamstrings and surrounding muscles, and good agility. Again, work with your PT to find out which are the best exercises for you to do to reduce your risk of hamstring injuries.

A Word From Verywell

A hamstring strain or tear can be a painful injury that prevents you from participating in normal work and recreational activities. If you have a hamstring injury or pain, check in with your healthcare provider to see if PT is right for you.

Your physical therapist can help manage your pain and improve your mobility and strength so you can get back to your normal activities quickly and safely.

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Mendiguchia J, Alentorn-geli E, Brughelli M. Hamstring strain injuries: are we heading in the right direction? . Br J Sports Med . 2012;46(2):81-5. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.081695

Guillodo Y, Here-Dorignac C, Thoribé B, et al. Clinical predictors of time to return to competition following hamstring injuries .  Muscles Ligaments Tendons J .

Liu H, Garrett WE, Moorman CT, Yu B. Injury rate, mechanism, and risk factors of hamstring strain injuries in sports: A review of the literature .  Journal of Sport and Health Science .

Erickson LN, Sherry MA. Rehabilitation and return to sport after hamstring strain injury .  J Sport Health Sci . 2017;6(3):262–270. doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2017.04.001

Bourne, MN et al. "Eccentric knee flexor strength and risk of hamstring injuries in rugby union." Am J Sports Med.

Goosens, EW et al. "Lower eccentric hamstring strength and single leg hop for distance predict hamstring injury in PETE students." Euro J of Sport Sci.

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By Brett Sears, PT Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.

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Virtual Sports Injury Clinic - Sports Injuries

Hamstring Exercises

Hamstring strain exercises

The following Hamstring exercises form part of our Hamstring strain rehabilitation program . They include stretching, strengthening and functional exercises to be done alongside treatment methods. They are also ideal for strengthening the hamstring muscles to improve performance and help prevent injury.

Medically reviewed by Dr Chaminda Goonetilleke , 24th Dec. 2022

If you have suffered a pulled hamstring then do not begin exercises until you are sure the initial acute phase has passed. See our full hamstring strain rehab program for more details.

Download our App to access the step-by-step Hamstring strain rehab program: iPhone & Android

Hamstring stretching exercises

These exercises stretch the hamstring muscles and include static as well as dynamic hamstring stretching exercises. Static exercises involve easing into a stretch position and holding it for a period of time. Dynamic stretching involves movement or swinging your leg gently to stretch the muscles.

Straight leg hamstring stretch

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Ease into the stretch and hold. You can perform this on a bench, table or the floor. Do not force it. You should feel a gentle stretch at the back of your thigh. This exercise targets the muscle fibres higher up the thigh more, as opposed to above the knee.

Bent knee hamstring stretch

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Bent knee hamstring stretches target the hamstring muscle fibres nearer the knee as opposed to higher up. Gently bring your leg up, then straighten it to apply a stretch to the muscle.

Hamstring swings

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Straight leg raise

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Lie on the floor on your back and lift the injured leg up as far as it will go within the pain-free range. Then lower. Try to get a more dynamic movement with this exercise and aim to gradually straighten the knee as your flexibility improves.

Upside downcycling

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Lie on your back and support your hips with your hands. Perform a cycling action with your legs.

Hamstring strengthening exercises

These hamstring strengthening exercises begin in phase 2 of our rehab program and you can do them at home without any specialist equipment. The early stages involve isometric exercises which do not include any movement. Later isotonic exercises with movement using weights or resistance bands are important.

Isometric hamstrings

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

These are best done with a partner (or therapist) to help. Lie on your front in the prone position. Contract your hamstring muscles against a partner’s resistance, hold then relax. Change the amount your knee is bent to work the muscle at different lengths. Once you have worked the muscles through a range of angles, repeat with your foot turned inwards, then again turned outwards. This targets the inner and outer hamstring muscles.

Standing hamstring curl

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Bend your knee pulling your ankles close to your buttocks. Increase both reps and speed as you become more confident.

Hamstring catches

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Allow your leg to fall from a bent position. Use your hamstring muscles to catch the leg before it falls horizontal. Stay relaxed as your leg falls under the influence of gravity. Only contract the hamstring muscles to prevent the foot from landing. This works the hamstring muscles eccentrically, with a very light dynamic training effect.

Double leg bridge

exercises for grade 1 hamstring strain

Seated hamstring pull

One end of a resistance band is tied to a fixed point or held by a partner and the other end is secured to the foot. Pull your heel into the buttocks, contracting the hamstring muscle to do so. See how you

Single leg bridge

Lie on your back, knee bent, and push the hips upwards to work the gluteal muscles and hamstrings.

Alternate hip extension hamstring exercises

Use a step or box to raise your elbows, and alternate by putting each heel on the floor. It is important to maintain good core stability and keep your hips and shoulders still. As your heel touches the ground the gluteal muscles and hamstrings have to work isometrically to keep your body stable. Note: This works the hamstring muscles in a position similar to how they are when sprinting or accelerating.

Straight leg ball pick up

This is an excellent rehab hamstring exercise as the straight leg ball pick-up strengthens the hamstring muscles in a stretched position.

Lunge with ball

Hamstring strengthening exercises become more demanding and sport-specific. Be careful not to over-do things if you are resuming normal sports training sessions. You may be surprised at just how difficult some of these exercises are if you are not used to them. See how you feel the following day.

Good mornings

This exercise is a more advanced version of the single-leg ball pick-up and works the lower back and hamstring muscles eccentrically, especially the fibres towards the top of the thigh. Place a barbell on your shoulders so the bar rests on the upper back. Bend forward at the waist keeping your back straight.

Norwegian hamstring curl

Functional hamstring exercises.

Functional hamstring exercises are more activity or sports specific. They bridge the gap between basic hamstring rehabilitation exercises and returning to normal training.

Quick feet and hold

Perform a two footed squat jump to the side. Hold the finish position briefly.

Pogo hamstring exercises

Jump up and down on both feet. Loop a resistance band around your ankles to bring your hip muscles into it more. Kepe your knees very slightly bent but aim to do most of the work with your calf muscles.

About The Author

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The Barbell Physio

The Ultimate Guide to Hamstring Strain Rehabilitation

A hamstring strain can be one of those stubborn injuries that far too often become recurring injuries or a more chronic strain. Their high rate of recurrence is usually due to a lack of careful rehabilitation and training following the injury. If you are experiencing chronic hamstring strains, there is a specific and well-understood way to begin to exercise the injured body part and progress back to full athletic participation.

Hamstring Strain Rehabilitation

Acute phase considerations: did you just injure your hamstring, or is it currently painful .

The first step in rehabilitating insulted muscle tissue is to find ways to use this muscle without causing further injury. Isometric exercise is defined as a muscular contraction where the muscle length is not changing. In other words, the muscle is being flexed, but it is not creating any movement. An example of an isometric exercise is showing off your arm muscles or flexing your abs as hard as you can. Isometrics have been shown to help with pain and are an effective initial way to start exercising after injury. The bridge position is a good place to start with isometric hamstring exercise.

Isometrics for Analgesia: Direct Load Progressions for a Hamstring Strain 

Isometrics have numerous applications in strength training as well as rehab. They are an effective way to warm-up and prime muscles for movement as well as decrease sensitivity and pain after injury. Isometric contractions allow the athlete to recruit a maximal amount of muscle fibers and can help to optimize the nervous system for efficient muscular contraction. This process is often called “activating” muscles and is done before strenuous lifting. In addition to activation, isometric strength training develops strength that is extremely specific to the range of motion trained. This can be helpful in training weak points. For example, isometric holds in the bottom of a squat (pause squats), or isometric deadlift holds just above or below your sticking point can help bust plateaus.

In addition to the physiological benefits of pain relief, the increased neuromuscular recruitment efficiency, and the practical strength training application of isometrics, they can be extremely helpful in teaching exercise progression and introducing new movement. For example, in the bridge progression chart below, you must complete an isometric hold of each new challenging position before you do it for reps.

During rehab, there might be a session where you do the dynamic movement of one position, and the isometric holds from the next most challenging position. This is how you can slowly advance the difficulty of rehab. Isometrics allow us to “feel out” new ranges of motion. They’re helpful for teaching lifting for this same reason as for rehab. They are a useful method of self-limiting progression to ensure we do not push ourselves too much and take a step back as well. Isometrics builds the initial strength and comfort in each new range of motion.

Bridge Progression Chart

Start all new positions with isometric holds, then progress to reps and movement. Build from 2 sets x 5-8 reps to 3 x 10-12 before entering each new phase. Use pain and form as your guide for progression.

Modifying Bridges for Pain

If the phase 0 bridge is painful with your hamstring strain, there are a few ways to modify the exercise and experiment with finding pain free movement. The range of motion can be altered to reduce the strength of the contraction. Introducing extra isometric resistance in other planes of movement can help to recruit varied musculature and significantly alter pain sensation. Additionally, there are pelvic and core positioning cues and considerations that can be used to find pain free movement. A posteriorly tilted pelvis and flexed spine positioning can effectively shorten the length of the hamstrings and increase contraction strength. This is one cue that can help to decrease sensitivity during the initial phase and also train the core to prepare for proper positioning under load later on.

Are you stretching your hamstrings too much, too soon?

One very common misconception is that tight feeling muscles need to be stretched . Muscles can feel tight for a variety of reasons, and it is not always necessary or even beneficial to stretch a muscle. Sometimes, it can even be detrimental to its recovery. During most muscle injuries, the fibers or microscopic cells are slightly torn. In extreme cases where bleeding is excessive, this can be seen in the form of bruising, swelling, and highly sensitized painful tissue. Insulted tissue responds much better to gentle exercise and movement than it does vigorous stretching. If this has been your method of relieving pain or rehabbing a hamstring strain, you are in for a rude awakening.

Stretching a muscle can create a temporary inhibitory effect on its fibers, causing the tone of the muscle to relax and thus allowing for more range of motion. Muscle length is a fluid and dynamic quality that changes based on the status of the nervous system and muscle fibers themselves. For example, if your hamstrings are extremely stiff after a killer deadlift workout, their fibers and cells are highly sensitive and do not want to be tugged on and stretched. Therefore, your nervous system knows this and disallows intense stretching. Your muscles did not physically shorten over night, and if worked back into range of motion properly, they will return to a comfortable resting length once the soreness is resolved.

Is stretching always wrong?

After a hamstring injury, there are some gentle stretching and mobility techniques for the hamstrings and posterior chain that can be helpful. Some gentle mobility is OK, but this should not be a rehab focus until basic movements like lunges, squats, and bridges are pain-free and mobility is seen as a limiting factor. For many, a properly performed lunge or single leg deadlift is a mobility movement by itself. Make single-leg strength training the priority, not just stretching.

Here is a video of some gentle stretching techniques that can be used. Incorporating hip rotation into stretches will ensure the entire hamstring group is stretched equally.

Good Pain vs Bad. Stretch Vs. Pull

Hamstring rehabilitation involves feedback and monitoring of pain and feeling in the hamstring. The more in tune you are with your body, the better your recovery and rehabilitation will go. It is important, to be honest with yourself and be disciplined here, as it is human and athletic instinct to want to constantly push yourself. Testing limits is OK and necessary. It just needs to be done correctly with the proper thinking and feedback mechanisms.

The goal is to continually add progressions and challenges to the exercises while being able to distinguish between good pain, working muscles, stretch vs. pull, and bad pain. Good pain during a hamstring rehab is a slight stretch or a very small pulling feeling that improves throughout the exercise or set. Good pain is muscular soreness afterward. Bad pain is a strong or painful pull, a tug, and any strength of contraction that would not be able to be tolerated for a 5-10 second hold. If you are working with a patient, come up with some mutually shared ways to communicate about stretch vs. pain vs. pull, good vs. bad pain, etc.

Hamstring Strain Exercise Progressions for Athletes

Unilateral exercises.

Athletes require more advanced ways to increase the strength of their hamstrings and move beyond the basic bridge and isometric progressions. Unilateral exercises can teach body stiffness, core control, balance, and controlled eccentric lengthening along with reciprocal hip movement. They can be beneficial for all athletes, including barbell lifters. Developing single-leg strength is markedly different than lifting with both your feet on the ground, it will make you stronger and more resilient. These exercises are sure to challenge even the healthiest of hamstrings.

Single-Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift should be in everyone’s training program. It’s a key move for combining hamstring mobility and strength into one movement. All of these exercises can be progressed with speed as well as weight. Hamstrings are called up on to contract quickly and need to be rehabbed accordingly.

Standing Band Pulldown

The band pulldown recreates the cyclical motion of gait with the swing leg. It can hard very quickly with ample band tension. This exercise also challenges the core and pelvis in a more generalized way to stay level and not get torqued by the band.

Slider Lunges and Fall Outs

Lunges involve much more hamstring activity when they’re done with sliders. Like all of these exercises, increasing the speed makes this significantly more challenging to the hamstrings.

Bilateral Exercises

Exercise 1: nordics.

Exercise 2: Glute Ham

Exercise 3: romanian deadlifts (rdls).

At this point, the athlete should be able to resume normal lifting that does not stress the hamstrings. This exercise list includes a more shallow range of motion squats with forward knee bend, think of a front squat, or goblet squat. Pushing a sled can also be great during this time. The concentric work of a marching sled push can be a very effective way to tax the hamstrings. The hamstrings require a high amount of stiffness to propel the body against a sled pushing forward. This can also serve as an ongoing assessment tool for physical readiness. The sled should be taxing but tolerable for hamstrings. Any sort of deadlifting or posterior chain dominant work should be progressed under the previously stated rules as well: gradually increasing range of motion, load, and speed.

Other Factors That Influence The Hamstrings

Hip extension.

If we want to explore the “WHY?” question as to hamstring strains, we might want to look at two different areas: the opposite hip flexor and the same side glute. During gait or running, as the hamstring is lengthened, so is the contralateral hip flexor. If you are having recurrent hamstring issues, you might want to look at the opposite anterior chain. Poor hip extension on one hip can make hip flexion of the opposite hip more difficult, thus affecting the hamstring.

To asses hip extension and tight hip flexors, we recommend performing the THOMAS TEST .

Here is an example of an active Thomas test that you can do yourself to asses hip flexor mobility and control as well. Use a box or raised bench if you don’t have access to a table.

Glute Strength

The glutes and hamstrings play synergistic roles as powerful extensors of the hip. It would stand to reason that if one glute was weak, for whatever reason, that side hamstring might have to take on more load. Training hip extension with both glute and hamstring dominant movements is just as important as training knee flexion in the rehab process.

To address glute strength: check out THIS ARTICLE for different exercises to throw into the mix.

Hip Flexion

Lastly, one important test to help look at proper hip function and screen out for future hamstring issues is the standing hip flexion hurdle test. The hurdle test is part of a movement screen that can be helpful for bringing to light hip pathology or movement deficits in active flexion that might impact gait and running mechanics.

The video below shows three common compensations: trunk side-bending, hip hiking, and then hip rotation compensations. One thing to notice with the hip rotation deficits is the concomitant compensations with foot eversion and inversion.

Core Strength

Often, we find individuals with difficulty controlling pelvic positions (core stability) will place their pelvic in an anteriorly tilted position during athletic movements. Many times, working on better controlling pelvic positioning can have a great effect on decreasing strain on the hamstrings. Here are some of our favorites, but you can get creative here!

Psoas March and Variations are great to work the core and hip flexor strength simultaneously with a focus on controlling pelvic positioning.

Dead Bugs and Variations are a killer series of exercises to get your core seriously strong.

Band Pullover Straight Leg Raises are great to stabilize the core/pelvic while taking the hamstring through its full range of motion.

Return to Running

Returning to jogging after a hamstring strain injury usually isn’t too bad. It’s the sprinting and high-velocity work that is both challenging and daunting. This can be especially true for athletes who injured their hamstrings running at full speed.

Modify Gait for High Effort Running (Sprinting)

There are two ways that I like to modify the running gait during rehab. Running up a hill effectively shortens the stride length and is a safe way to progress to a 100% effort sprint. I always recommend starting max-effort running on an incline. The second option is to make sprints while dragging a light sled. Start around 20% body-weight and work your way down. Decreasing weight is a progression for sled sprints. With increasing speed, the hamstring will be contracting faster and moving with a greater range of motion.

Both of these methods reduce stride length and maximum velocity for sprinting. They can also be helpful for reviewing and teaching sprinting mechanics. An example of how a sled drag progression might look is to gradually decrease the weight over 3-4 weeks to return unweighted sprints. With hill sprints, the hill volume can gradually subbed in for flat ground sprinting until the sprinting volume is all on flat ground.

Re-condition with Tempo Runs and Cross-Training

Proper conditioning is critical when returning from hamstring strain injuries. A fatigued hamstring is a weak one, and this can make it susceptible to re-injury. Conditioning of the muscle itself is just as important as the cardiovascular system. The hamstring needs to be repeatedly conditioned for max velocity running gait. A significant part of rehab for high-level athletes is getting back the endurance to maintain a high level of performance throughout a game or practice. It is for this reason that cardiovascular conditioning should be maintained as much as possible during rehab.

Tempo running and a gradual return to running and practice drills are helpful. Often athletes want to re-condition by jogging; they’ll go out and run 4 miles in 30 minutes and think they’re helping their hamstring. Jogging is not sufficient. That’s an 8mph pace. During a competitive event, most high-level athletes (men & women) will be achieving speeds between 14 and 18 mph. Hamstring injuries happen during higher velocity running, and these conditions must be re-created in rehabilitation to fully prepare the athlete.

During a tempo run, the athlete should be briefly hitting 10-12 mph and should strive for a full cycling range of motion similar to max velocity running. By the time the athlete is returning to practice and movement, they should be well-conditioned, extremely in touch with their body, and constantly self-monitoring to avoid extreme fatigue and scenarios that can potentially cause a re-injury. Returning from a muscle pull or tear requires self-limiting behavior and discipline: pain is subjective, and the athlete is the only one that knows how they feel.

One nice way to do tempo runs is on a Woodway curve. The curve gives you a speed reading and allows you to run as fast as you like and easily accelerate to 10 or 12 mph. If you don’t have access to this kind of equipment, any field or open area will do. A normal belt powered treadmill is not ideal for tempo runs. Using a radar gun to gauge the athlete’s speed and assign objective numbers is a helpful way to control tempo runs on the field.

Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy

All of the above is focused on your typical hamstring strain where the pain and damage has occurred in the middle of the muscle belly. But we also see individuals with tendinopathy at the upper attachment of the hamstring onto the pelvis. This is known as proximal hamstring tendinopathy.

Much of the above will translate to treating proximal hamstring injuries as well. But there are several nuances to proximal injuries that need to be understood both in the assessment and rehab plans. The following podcast from Dr. Zach Long (TheBarbellPhysio) outlines the specific strategies that should be utilized in proximal hamstring tendinopathies.

The last part of hamstring strain rehab

This is the hardest part, and it’s where the most injury recurrences and mistakes happen. Conditioning is extremely important; this non-negotiable. One session with a few 100% effort sprints at the end does not equate to being physically ready for full game play. This 100% effort must be sustained for longer and longer each session. Film and slo-mo video can be helpful here to analyze the running form. Pick one thing to analyze each time you watch and compare side to side. Look at front-side mechanics: how’s the knee drive? Back-side mechanics: where does each heel end up, are they getting full extension? This video analysis is an objective way to look at the athlete’s physical readiness.

There are some other locomotive ways to challenge the hamstring strain in the last part of rehab. Bounding running, galloping, and running downhill or Overspeed running will increase the stretch on the hamstring and potentially expose the injured area. During this last phase of rehab, you need to expose the injury to ensure it’s strong enough for return to sport.

Expose and Protect

This concept of exposing and protecting the injury is what the entire rehabilitation process is based on. At first, we protect while the injury heals, we then expose by strengthening the insulted tissue. In later rehab, we expose by increase running speeds and introducing new stimuli, while we simultaneously protect through modifications like sled drags and hill running. Expose vs. Protect that is the continuum that all rehabilitation is based on.


Dr. Teddy Willsey is a sports medicine physical therapist and performance coach at Healthy Baller Speed & Performance Center. Healthy Baller is the premier strength and conditioning and rehabilitation sports medicine center in the Washington D.C. metro area. As a former high-level powerlifter and strength coach himself, Teddy specializes in bringing strength & conditioning principles to the rehabilitation world and filling the void that often exists between therapy and training.

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Hamstring injuries, such as strains and tears, are common in sports that require either a lot of running or powerful accelerations and decelerations. The hamstrings consist of a group of muscles and tendons that extend along the back of the leg, from the base of the pelvis to the shinbone. While their primary role is to bend the knee, hamstrings also contribute to the rotation of the lower leg.

A hamstring strain refers to an injury in which the muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. Less severe strains are often referred to as a "pulled hamstring." A hamstring tear, also known as a rupture, infers a more serious injury.

Some hamstring injuries are mild and improve with rest and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Others are more severe and may require surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

Symptoms of a Hamstring Injury

Depending on the specific injury, symptoms can vary in terms of their intensity, as well as how long they last. In general, symptoms tend to include varying degrees of pain, swelling, and bruising. In many cases, it is difficult to extend the knee more than 30 to 40 degrees without pain.

An acute, or short-term, hamstring injury typically causes sudden, intense pain in the back of the thigh that can stop you mid-stride. In some cases, you may hear an audible "pop" or feel your leg giving out from under you. Swelling, bruising, spasms, tightness, and tenderness may appear within hours to days after the injury.

A chronic, or long-term, hamstring injury can occur if an untreated tear or strain worsens over time. In the case of a rupture, a severe tear, you can often feel or see an indentation where the tear has occurred. Swelling and severe bruising will typically follow, along with muscle weakness.

Hamstring Injury Causes

Most hamstring injuries are caused when its three muscles are overloaded. These include the biceps femoris, semitendinosus , and semimembranosus . Muscle overload occurs when a muscle is either stretched beyond its limits or challenged with a sudden, excessive weight load.

Most strains occur when the hamstring muscles are lengthened and contracted at the same time, which is known as an eccentric contraction . An example of this is sprinting , during which the back leg is straightened while you propel yourself forward on bent toes.

Other injuries occur when the hamstring is overexerted when lifting weight with a sudden thrust of energy. Powerlifting is an example of this.

Risk Factors for Hamstring Injury:

Diagnosis of Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring injuries can usually be diagnosed by the location and intensity of the pain, as well as the restriction of movement. Most tend to occur either in the middle of the back of the thigh or just beneath the gluteus muscle, near the point where the tendon connects to the bone.

Most cases do not require imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. However, severe injuries may need to be assessed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the gold standard for visualizing soft tissue injuries. Alternately, an ultrasound can provide a qualitative assessment of an injury by viewing the muscles and tendons in real-time. X-rays, while useful, can sometimes miss smaller tears.

Based on the evaluation, a hamstring injury can be classified as grade I, grade II, or grade III.

Grade I Hamstring Injury

A grade I hamstring injury describes a mild muscle pull or strain that may heal within a few days.

With a grade I injury, an individual may have:

Grade II Hamstring Injury

A grade II hamstring injury describes a partial hamstring muscle tear that can take weeks to months to heal.

With a grade II injury, you may experience:

Grade III Hamstring Injury

A grade III hamstring injury is the most severe and describes a complete muscle tear. This can take weeks to months to heal and may require surgery.

With a grade III injury, you may have:

Treatment for Hamstring Injuries

The treatment of a hamstring injury is based on the severity of the symptoms. All but the most severe can usually be treated non-surgically. Those involving tendon avulsions, in which the tendon has pulled completely away from the bone, require surgery and an extensive rehabilitation program.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Most acute hamstring injuries can be treated at home with the RICE protocol, which involves:

More serious injuries may require immobilization with a knee brace to keep your leg in a neutral position. Pain can be treated either with an analgesic, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen).

Once the injury is stabilized and the pain and swelling have subsided, physical therapy can begin. This may involve gentle stretching to restore range of motion, and strengthening exercises to increase muscle mass and weight-bearing strength.

Surgical Treatment

Avulsions of the hamstring typically require surgery to reattach the rupture. Avulsions most commonly occur near the pelvis (proximal tendon avulsion), although they can also happen nearer to the shinbone (distal tendon avulsion).

If an acute rupture occurs, the surgeon will usually wait 72 hours to allow the recoiled muscles to "relax." Delaying beyond this point is usually unadvised as the muscle can begin to waste away (atrophy) and develop extensive scarring (fibrosis).

During the tendon avulsion repair, the surgeon will pull the hamstring muscles back into their original position and cut away any scar tissue at the ruptured end. The tendon will then be reattached to the bone with staples and/or stitches. If the muscle itself is ruptured, sutures will be used to reattach the ends without shortening the length too excessively.

After surgery, you will need to use crutches and a brace to keep your leg in a neutral position. Once ample healing has occurred, physical therapy and rehabilitation may begin, lasting anywhere from three to six months. Every effort is made to control pain with regular ice application and OTC pain relievers . If needed, stronger NSAIDs may be prescribed.

Preventing a Hamstring Injury

Since hamstring injuries typically occur during sports and athletics, routine precautions should be taken in advance of the activities. It's important to note that hamstring re-injury is most likely to occur within the first two weeks of returning to a sport.

Prevention tips:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hamstring muscle injuries .

Penn Medicine. Hamstring injuries .

Mount Sinai. Hamstring strain - aftercare .

Knapik DM, Metcalf KB, Voos JE. Isolated tearing and avulsion of the distal biceps femoris tendon during sporting activities: a systematic review . Orthop J Sports Med . 2018;6(7):2325967118781828. doi:10.1177/2325967118781828

DeWitt J, Vidale T. Recurrent hamstring injury: consideration following operative and non-operative management .  Int J Sports Phys Ther . 2014;9(6):798-812.

Nemours TeensHealth. Hamstring strain .

Brukner P. Hamstring injuries: prevention and treatment-an update .  Br J Sports Med . 2015;49(19):1241-1244. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094427

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.

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Sports Injuries

Hamstring Injury

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Manage Notes

A hamstring injury is a strain (tear) to one or more of the three large muscles at the back of the thigh (or their tendons at the back of the knee or in the pelvis).

In this article

What is a hamstring injury, what are the hamstrings, what causes hamstring injuries, what makes a hamstring injury more likely, hamstring strength, what are the symptoms of a hamstring injury, complications, how to treat a hamstring injury, recovering from a hamstring injury, how to prevent hamstring injuries, what is a nordic hamstring exercise, how to do a nordic hamstring exercise, what is the outlook for a hamstring injury.

A hamstring injury is a strain (muscle tear). They most often occur at the middle of the back of the thigh where the muscle joins its tendon or at the base of the buttocks.

The three grades of hamstring injury are:

The hamstrings are the three muscles at the back of the thigh. At the top they are attached to the 'sit bone' of the pelvis. The lower ends cross the back of the knee joint and are then attached to the bones of the lower leg:

They are involved in:

Hamstring injuries are common in all sports that involve short bursts of sprinting, suddenly stopping and changing direction and also jumping. So they are particularly common in football, rugby, baseball and track running.

Hamstring injuries happen most often at the end of the swing phase of running, just before the outstretched leg is put to the ground. At this point, the hamstring muscles have to suddenly shorten (contract) to bend the knee.

There are many factors that are thought to make a hamstring injury more likely. Some are factors that you can do something about, such as:

Other factors

Neither weight nor BMI is thought to be a risk factor for a hamstring injury.

Hamstring strength is probably the most important factor in hamstring injury. There is disagreement in the research as to whether it is an imbalance between the strength of the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh compared to the hamstrings that matters most or just the strength of the hamstrings themselves.

Either way, it is essential to spend time working on your hamstring strength in order to avoid injury. A highly trained sportsperson will tend to do this as part of their training but recreational footballers or runners, for example, may not realise that they need to as well.

A specific exercise has been devised to increase the strength of the hamstring muscles at the point in running when they are at most risk of injury. It is called the Nordic hamstring exercise (see below - 'How to prevent a hamstring injury').

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You may feel or hear a pop, followed immediately by severe pain in the affected leg after sudden lunging, jumping or sprinting. The muscle will often feel tight and tender, and go into cramp or spasm. In severe cases, there can be swelling and bruising. Walking may be painful. You may be unable to stand.

The back of the leg will feel tight, tender and possibly bruised. With more severe injury, swelling and a black and blue or bruised appearance will follow. In some cases there may be a gap in the muscle that you can actually feel by touching it.

Mild hamstring strains may not hurt too much. But severe ones can be very painful, making it impossible to walk or even stand.

Grade I injuries tend to be mild in that they tend to heal fully with only minor aggravation to the injured person, particularly in those whose sport doesn't put them at increased risk of further injury.

Grade II and III injuries take longer. Severely torn muscle can be debilitating for a long time and can be career-threatening to the professional athlete.

Grade I-II minor to moderate hamstring injuries usually heal on their own. For the first 48-72 hours think of:

Paying the PRICE

Avoid HARM for 72 hours after injury

Other measures

Recovering from a hamstring injury may take from days to months, depending on how severe the strain or tear is. A grade III injury can take several months to heal; you'll be unable to resume your usual training or play sport during this time.

Most hamstring injuries, even grade III injuries, heal without surgery. In severe cases, crutches or splinting may be necessary. In rare cases, where there is a complete rupture where the hamstrings join the pelvic bones at the top, surgery is necessary.

Lack of use, particularly if splinting, results in muscle shrinkage and the formation of scar tissue where the tear is healing. Excessive scar tissue prevents healthy muscle function, as it doesn't stretch and move as normal muscle does.

To avoid these complications rehabilitation exercises need to begin early (except grade III injuries):

Returning to sport

Your physiotherapist or sports therapist will be able to advise you on returning to your sport and on a suitable graded exercise programme, which might include:

Re-injury is extremely common. Athletes are highly motivated and are likely to have set personal goals for training, timing and performance. However, re-injury not only prolongs recovery, it also increases the risk of permanent damage.

As with all sports-related muscle injuries the risk can be reduced by close attention to muscle strength. This is true both for preventing a first injury or a recurrence.

Nordic hamstring exercises are exercises that have been specifically designed to target the hamstring muscle at the point where is is most likely to be injured. They have been shown to reduce the risk of a first hamstring injury by 65% and the risk of a recurrent injury by as much as 85%.

Some studies don't show that they are as effective as this but it would seem that it depends on how well the people doing them adhere to the exercise programme - in other words, if you don't do them regularly, they won't work as well.

They should be done regularly but only gradually increase how many are done and how often. They are intense and will cause delayed-onset muscle stiffness (DOMS) but this should not put you off doing them. (DOMS Is the medical term for the aching you can get in your muscles 24-48 hours after exercise.).

They should NOT be done if you have a recent hamstring injury, unless advised to do so by your physiotherapist or sports therapist. They are best done with a partner.

If you do not have a partner these exercises can be done by trapping your feet and then using your hands to walk yourself back up. However, this should be supervised by someone familiar with the exercises, at least initially.

The outlook (prognosis) is generally good, but can require a period of rest by avoiding running and athletic competition, followed by adhering to a rehabilitation programme of exercises. The length required for recovery varies depending on the severity of the muscle injury.

Pulled Groin (Groin Strain)

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Further reading and references

Goode AP, Reiman MP, Harris L, et al ; Eccentric training for prevention of hamstring injuries may depend on intervention compliance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Mar49(6):349-56. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093466. Epub 2014 Sep 16.

Freckleton G, Pizzari T ; Risk factors for hamstring muscle strain injury in sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2013 Apr47(6):351-8. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2011-090664. Epub 2012 Jul 4.

van der Horst N, Smits DW, Petersen J, et al ; The preventive effect of the nordic hamstring exercise on hamstring injuries in amateur soccer players: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Sports Med. 2015 Jun43(6):1316-23. doi: 10.1177/0363546515574057. Epub 2015 Mar 20.

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Hamstring injury

A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the tendons or large muscles at the back of the thigh.

It's a common injury in athletes and can happen in different severities. The 3 grades of hamstring injury are:

The length of time it takes to recover from a hamstring strain or tear will depend on how severe the injury is.

A minor muscle pull or strain (grade 1) may take a few days to heal, whereas it could take weeks or months to recover from a muscle tear (grade 2 or 3).

The hamstrings

The hamstrings are tendons (strong bands of tissue) at the back of the thighs that attach the large thigh muscle to the bone.

The term "hamstring" also refers to the group of 3 muscles that run along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below your knee.

The hamstring muscles are not used much while standing or walking, but they're very active during activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping and climbing.

What causes hamstring injuries?

A hamstring injury often happens during sudden, powerful movements, such as sprinting, lunging or jumping that overstretch your tendons or muscles. The injury can also happen gradually during slower movements.

Recurring injury is common in athletes and sportsmen, as you're more likely to injure your hamstring if you've injured it before.

Regularly doing stretching and strengthening exercises, and warming up before exercise, may help reduce the risk of injuring your hamstring.

How do I know if I've injured my hamstring?

Mild hamstring strains (grade 1) will usually cause sudden pain and tenderness at the back of your thigh. It may be painful to move your leg, but the strength of the muscle should not be affected.

Partial hamstring tears (grade 2) are usually more painful and tender. There may also be some swelling and bruising at the back of your thigh and you may have lost some strength in your leg.

Severe hamstring tears (grade 3) will usually be very painful, tender, swollen and bruised, making it difficult to walk and stand. There may have been a "popping" sensation at the time of the injury and you'll be unable to use the affected leg.

When to see a GP

Most hamstring injuries can be cared for at home.

See a GP if you have any concerns about your injury, particularly if you think it's a severe injury, it's not healing, or your symptoms are getting worse.

The GP can also advise you about when you can return to your normal activities and what exercises you should do to aid your recovery in the meantime. They may also refer you for a scan or to a physiotherapist for specialist treatment in some cases.

Rest and recovery from a hamstring injury

Recovering from a hamstring injury may take days, weeks or months, depending on how severe it is.

A completely torn hamstring may take several months to heal and you'll be unable to resume training or play sport during this time.

Initial treatment

During the first 2 or 3 days, you should care for your injury using RICE therapy:

Regular painkillers, such as paracetamol  or a  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) cream or gel, may also help relieve the pain.

Short-term use of oral NSAIDs, such as  ibuprofen tablets, can also help reduce swelling and inflammation. However, these are not suitable for everyone. Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if you can take it.

The GP may recommend you wear a knee splint for a brief time. This will help stop your leg moving to help it heal.

Gentle exercises and stretches

Returning to strenuous exercise too quickly could make your injury worse, but avoiding exercise for too long can cause your hamstring muscles to shrink and scar tissue to form around the tear.

To avoid this, you should start doing gentle hamstring stretches after a few days, when the pain has started to subside.

This should be followed by a programme of gentle exercise, such as walking and cycling , and hamstring strengthening exercises.

The GP can give you further advice and, if necessary, refer you to a physiotherapist for a suitable exercise programme.

To avoid injuring yourself again, you should only return to a full level of activity when your hamstring muscles are strong enough. Your physiotherapist or GP will be able to advise you about this.

Many people need to avoid sports for at least a few weeks, but the length of time you need off will depend on the severity of your injury.

Page last reviewed: 03 November 2021 Next review due: 03 November 2024

Nathan Cleary out for six weeks with hamstring injury after Panthers win over Dragons, Roosters edge Bulldogs, Cowboys thrash Storm

Nathan Cleary holds his left hamstring and grimaces

Nathan Cleary's hopes of playing for NSW in Game II of State of Origin are over after he limped out of Penrith's 26-18 win over St George Illawarra.

Cleary, who was part of the Blues side that lost the series opener in Adelaide, pulled up in pain after just 15 minutes at Penrith Stadium.

Penrith confirmed on Monday that the prized number seven would miss up to six weeks with the injury, ruling him out of Origin II on June 21, and leaving him in serious doubt to play Origin III on July 12.

"I'm not a doctor, but it's a significant injury," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said after the match.

"We'll get it scanned tomorrow so we'll learn more but I think he's very unlikely.

"If he's ready, I'd love him to play Origin. But it's gunna be one of those injuries, it's a soft tissue injury so you can either play or you can't really."

Nathan Cleary was critical to Brad Fittler's plans as the Blues fight to save the series in Brisbane for the first time in Origin history.

"It's tough to speculate on the seriousness of it before he's got scans," NSW adviser Greg Alexander said in commentary for Fox Sports.

"But looking at those images, I guess everyone at Penrith is trying to be as positive as possible and hoping it's low-grade. I'm hoping [for] the same thing."

Fittler and Alexander will likely plump for Cronulla's Nicho Hynes, who made his Origin debut from the bench on Wednesday, with Parramatta's Mitch Moses and Brisbane's Adam Reynolds possible understudies.

Cleary looked to have no signs of rust from the Origin opener, setting up winger Brian To'o with a floating cut-out pass in the 11th minute after a Zac Lomax penalty.

"I guess when you back players up there's always a bit of a risk, but he showed no signs of anything," Cleary said.

Just after the halfback pulled up sore, Mikaele Ravalawa crashed in at the corner for the Dragons.

The Fijian winger added a second in the 38th minute with Lomax also nudging another penalty to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Dragons.

Jack Cogger, who was brought on to replace Cleary, found To'o with a pinpoint cross-field kick on the stroke of half-time with the winger's effort converted by Stephen Crichton.

After half-time, Crichton added a penalty and what followed was an end-to-end battle between the reigning premiers and the bottom-placed Dragons for the next 20 minutes.

There was a heart-in-mouth moment when Penrith's NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai rolled his ankle but he was able to play on.

The rhythm eventually broke when touch judge Wyatt Raymond flagged for a knock on by Dragons winger Mat Feagai with Sunia Turuva touch down on the hour mark.

Lomax pegged Penrith back after lock Jack de Belin was knocked out cold from the restart but a Moses Leota try got the Panthers back in front with 10 minutes left.

Crichton converted Leota's try to re-establish a six-point buffer and added a last-minute penalty to ensure the Panthers of victory.

Cowboys blitz Storm

A Melbourne Storm NRL player holds the ball as he is tackled by a North Queensland opponent.

North Queensland kept its season alive with an emphatic victory over the Melbourne Storm at home that featured a hat-trick to club debutant Semi Valemei.

Neither side could be split after the opening 40 minutes with the score locked at 14-14, but it was North Queensland who came out desperate and firing in the second half to roll in five tries to the Storm's one.

Valemei bagged his third of the afternoon three minutes into the second half before his other winger Murray Taulagi extended the lead back to double digits.

Nick Meaney's chip and chase to himself lowered the deficit to six again as the Storm hung tough, but then the Cowboys hit their straps and fell into a rhythm not seen thus far in 2023.

It began with a spread left from midfield as Valentine Holmes accelerated onto a ball from Scott Drinkwater before passing out to Taulagi for his second try.

Jeremiah Nanai ran a hard line off Drinkwater's shoulder for a try on his return from a four-match suspension, then when Peta Hiki enjoyed a rare break down the right edge nine minutes from time, his grubber found skipper Chad Townsend for North Queensland's eighth.

Townsend added a field goal just before full-time as the Cowboys enjoyed a complete rout of the Storm just two weeks after losing 66-16 to Wests Tigers.

The Cowboys had a number of stand-out players, with Reuben Cotter immense in midfield after his player-of-the match performance for Queensland in State of Origin I.

The 16th-placed Cowboys flew out the blocks and dominated the early stages for a 10-0 lead following two tries from Valemei.

The Storm weathered the onslaught and threw plenty of traffic at the Cowboys' left defensive edge, finally cracking some points when Xavier Coates beat two poor attempted tackles to score.

The Cowboys soon hit back when the Storm coughed up the ball inside their own half, with Tom Dearden finding fullback Drinkwater, who sneaked a ball out to Holmes for their third.

Justin Olam crashed over and Meaney added a penalty on half-time to level scores, but the Cowboys took control in the second half to end a two-match losing run.

Tedesco stars in Roosters win

A Sydney Roosters NRL player is tackled by a Canterbury opponent.

James Tedesco has bounced back from a disappointing State of Origin performance to guide the Sydney Roosters to a tense win over Canterbury.

The Roosters and the Bulldogs went blow-for-blow at Central Coast Stadium and it was Origin players from both teams who stood out.

After playing catch-up all game after dropping two tries early, the Roosters finally took the lead thanks to a Luke Keary field goal in the 74th minute.

But the afternoon belonged to Tedesco, who helped the Roosters hold off stiff challenges from his NSW teammates Josh Addo-Carr and Tevita Pangai Jr.

Tedesco's form has been under fire this year for the first time in his decorated career but the Roosters captain answered the club's distress call, helping halt a three-match losing streak with a first-half double and a try assist.

Keary scooted past Max King and Karl Oloapu and passed off to Tedesco, who had a second try when a flying Corey Allan kicked inside five minutes later.

Tedesco could have had a first-half hat-trick but for an obstruction before setting up the third try up when he burst through the middle on a line break after half-time.

Pangai Jr had a point to prove after an underwhelming match in his surprise Origin debut and set the tone for the visitors by pouncing on a Matt Burton grubber kick for the afternoon's first try.

He finished with a team-high 191 run metres.

A Sydney Roosters NRL player is tackled by two Canterbury opponents.

Addo-Carr was the Bulldogs' best, first dashing away on the line break that gave his side their second try.

He kept the Bulldogs in the fight in the second half, capitalising on Trent Robinson's decision to shift Joseph-Aukuso Sua'ali'i to the wing.

Addo-Carr twice beat the Wallaby-in-waiting for second-half tries, the first of which came after he dashed 80 metres down the left flank on a scrum play.

The Roosters again equalised at 24-24 after a controversial try from Sua'ali'i, who went over untouched on the right side while Bulldogs centre Paul Alamoti reeled on the ground with what appeared concussion symptoms.

Keary sealed a desperately needed win with his field goal that keeps the Roosters in touch with the top eight.


  1. Hamstring Injury: Treatment, Prevention & Recovery

    The grade describes the severity of your hamstring injury: Grade 1: A mild muscle pull/strain. Grade 2: A partial muscle tear. Grade 3: A complete muscle tear. ... No. You must follow your recovery plan. If you stay away from exercise for too long, your hamstring muscles may shrink. There may also be scar tissue.

  2. PDF Rehabilitation Protocol for Hamstring Injury Non-op

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    Place a pillow under your stomach. If your kneecap is uncomfortable, roll up a washcloth and put it under your leg just above your kneecap. Lift the foot of your affected leg by bending your knee so that you bring your foot up toward your buttock. If this motion hurts, try it without bending your knee quite as far.

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    The greatest musculo-tendon stretch is incurred by the biceps femoris, which may contribute to its tendency to be more often injured than the other 2 hamstring muscles (semimembranosus and semitendinosus) during high-speed running. [6] Predisposing Factors/Risk Factors

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    The first goal of treatment is to reduce pain and swelling. A health care provider might suggest the following: Take a break from strenuous activities to allow the injury to heal.; Apply ice packs several times a day to relieve pain and reduce swelling.; Wrap the injured area with a compression bandage or wear compression shorts to minimize swelling.; Rest with the leg elevated above the level ...

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    Grade I: the muscle fibers are simply overstretched, and microscopic tearing of the tissue may be present.Typically, there are no outward signs of a grade I muscle strain. Pain and limited mobility are present. Grade II: partial tearing of the hamstring muscle, with moderate swelling and bruising present.; Grade III.Full-thickness tearing of the muscle tissue, with significant pain and loss of ...

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    Tighten the muscles on the back of your bent leg (hamstring) by pressing your heel into the floor. Hold for about 6 seconds, and then rest for up to 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Hamstring curl Lie on your stomach with your knees straight. Place a pillow under your stomach.

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    May 19, 2023 The following Hamstring exercises form part of our Hamstring strain rehabilitation program. They include stretching, strengthening and functional exercises to be done alongside treatment methods. They are also ideal for strengthening the hamstring muscles to improve performance and help prevent injury. Advert

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    Non-Surgical Treatments. Most acute hamstring injuries can be treated at home with the RICE protocol, which involves: 1. Rest, often with crutches, to avoid placing any weight on the leg. Ice applied to the injury, using a cold compress, to reduce pain and inflammation.

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    Bending the knee. Tipping the pelvis back when you lean backwards. Twisting the knee when the knee is bent. What causes hamstring injuries? Hamstring injuries are common in all sports that involve short bursts of sprinting, suddenly stopping and changing direction and also jumping.

  19. Hamstring strain

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  21. Nathan Cleary out for six weeks with hamstring injury after Panthers

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