Fysiotherapeut & Bewegingstechnoloog


Hamstring Injuries: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

You’ve probably seen it on TV: an athlete suddenly falls to the ground during a match, clutching the back of their leg. This is a typical reaction to a hamstring injury. Hamstring injuries are common among athletes and are notorious for their stubbornness and the time needed for recovery. But what exactly causes these injuries? How can you recognize the symptoms, and what can you do to prevent them?

What is a Hamstring Injury?

A hamstring injury is an injury to the hamstrings, the three muscles at the back of the thigh. The injury can range from a mild strain to a complete tear of the muscle fibers. These muscles connect the lower leg to the sit bone. The primary functions of the hamstrings are extending the thigh backward (retroflexion) and bending the knee (flexion). The three muscles that make up the hamstrings are:

  • m. semitendinosus
  • m. semimembranosus
  • m. biceps femoris

How Does a Hamstring Injury Occur?

A hamstring injury can occur when a sudden force is applied to the hamstring tendon. This often happens during sports when there is a sudden acceleration for a sprint or an abrupt deceleration. Sports that involve a lot of jumping or kicking also put a lot of strain on the hamstring tendon, increasing the risk of a tear. Such a tear causes pain at the back of the thigh, making further sports activity impossible.

How Do I Know If I Have a Hamstring Injury?

Symptoms of the injury include sudden, sharp pain at the back of the thigh, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving or putting weight on the leg.

Risk Factors for a Hamstring Injury

Several factors can increase the risk of a hamstring injury, including:

  • Age
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Fatigued muscles
  • Short hamstrings
  • Inadequate warm-ups
  • Previous hamstring injuries

Preventing a Hamstring Injury

A hamstring injury can be prevented by:

  • Proper warm-up before sports activities
  • Avoiding sports with fatigued muscles
  • Avoiding sudden movements

Treatment of a Hamstring Injury

The treatment of a hamstring injury depends on the severity of the injury.

First-Degree Tear (mild strain with little pain and no swelling)

In a first-degree tear, one to five percent of the muscle fibers are damaged or strained. This causes discomfort when bending the leg, but there is hardly any pain while walking. There is no swelling, but there may be a slight tingling sensation. This type of tear usually heals on its own with sufficient rest. A brace can support the hamstrings. Recommended braces are:

Second-Degree Tear (partial tear with moderate pain and swelling)

In a second-degree tear, there is noticeable swelling and pain when pressing on the hamstring. Even light activities like walking or cycling cause significant pain. It is recommended to see a physiotherapist, and the previously mentioned braces can also help here.

Third-Degree Tear (complete tear with severe pain, swelling, and often bruising)

In a third-degree tear, there is significant swelling visible on the thigh and the pain is also felt in the surrounding muscles. Walking is only possible with crutches. In this case, the muscle is completely torn, and surgery is necessary.

Questions or Advice

Do you have questions or comments about this text, or are you interested in completely non-binding advice? Please contact us at or call +31 (0)85 – 4011 911.

Questions about this article?


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