Hamstring Injuries

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            Most people that regularly engage in an exercise routine have experienced some sort of injury.  One common injury site is the hamstring.  The hamstring is usually one of the tightest muscles in the body and can therefore be easily pulled.  The term “pulled” refers to how the injury takes place; the hamstring muscles are forcibly stretched (pulled) beyond their limits to the extent that the muscle tissue becomes torn. The torn muscle can then be classified into one of three categories depending on the severity of the injury.

-First degree strain-damage to a few muscle fibers

-Second degree strain-damage to numerous muscle fibers

-Third degree strain-total rupture of the actual muscle

The signs and symptoms of a hamstring injury differ depending on the degree that the injury falls under.  For a first degree strain, pain may not be felt until the activity is over.  There is often the sensation of tightness, cramping, or a slight feeling of pain when the muscle is stretched or contracted.  For a second degree strain, there is much more immediate pain and the hamstring is typically sore to the touch.  A third degree strain is categorized by immediate burning or pain and the sensation of stabbing tends to be present.  After two or three days, it is common for the area to be slightly raised or bruised due to bleeding within the tissues.

A common treatment plan for a hamstring injury is known as the RICE protocol; this stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  Resting is by far the most important step because it does not take much for a first degree strain to turn into a second degree strain or a second degree to turn into a third degree.  Even though it seems like the most obvious answer for treating an injury, it is often ignored.  As a general rule, a hamstring injury can take from 2-4 weeks to completely heal for a first or second degree strain while a third degree can take up to 3 months!  After the first week of rest, it is important to maintain a very watered-down exercise routine, mostly consisting of stretches to help the hamstring muscle heal quickly and completely.

The most important thing to know is how to prevent hamstring injuries all together.  This chart provides a guideline for prevention!

What you can do

Warm up before exercise

-Cool down following exercise

-Stretch regularly to maintain muscle length

-Replenish carbohydrates during exercise sessions lasting more than an hour

-Wear compression shorts or thigh support to retain muscle warmth

 

 By Jennifer Duncanson

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