Hamstring Strain

Clutching the hamstring after a strain

What is a hamstring strain?

Hamstring strains (i.e. tears) commonly occur during high-speed activities such as accelerating and decelerating in running, changing of direction, and kicking in sports such as football.

The hamstrings (incl. semitendinosus, semimembranosus & bicep femoris), located at the back of the thigh, are the most frequently injured muscle group, accounting for 20-26% of all sustained injuries within professional football.

Hamstring Injury Classification

A hamstring strain can be classified into the following grades:

Grade 1: Mild muscle strain

Pain or “tightness” is felt during or after activity. There is usually no loss in strength or range of movement. These injuries usually take approximately 3 weeks to recover.

Grade 2: Moderate muscle strain

Pain occurs during activity, which causes you to stop. With this injury, there is usually a loss of strength and range of movement, and the area may be tender to touch, and it is common to result in limping. These injuries may take 4-6 weeks to recover.

Grade 3: Extensive muscle strain/full thickness tear

There is commonly a sudden onset of pain, which can cause you to fall to the ground. Some may describe it as feeling like being hit in the back of the leg or being “shot”. There will usually be swelling and bruising in the area and pain with walking is common. These injuries can take 6-8+ weeks to recover, in some instances may benefit from surgery.

What are the symptoms of a hamstring strain?

Depending on the severity of the strain, the most likely symptoms of a hamstring strain are the following:

  • Tightness or pain in the back of the leg.
  • Bruising and swelling.
  • Pain with walking.

The severity of symptoms may vary depending on the grade of strain.

Hamstring Strain

How should I rehabilitate a hamstring injury?

Once the injury is confirmed as a hamstring strain, a rehab program should be implemented. Diagnosis can be made with physical assessment, and imaging (e.g. MRI or ultrasound) is not needed in most cases.

Physiotherapists can help provide you with a specific program tailored to you and your injury. This will usually consist of:

  • A progressive running program.
  • Strength exercises targeting the hamstring and hip muscles.
  • Hamstring flexibility exercises.

It is important to go through a guided exercise program by a physiotherapist to help you be ready to return to sport as soon as possible, make sure you don’t try to go back too early, and help reduce your risk of reinjury.

Start your recovery by booking an appointment with one of our experience physios at Complete. Physio Exercise Performance at 656 Bridge Rd, Richmond.


Hickey, J.T; Opar, D.A; Weiss, L.J; & Heiderscheit, B.C. (2022). Hamstring Strain Injury Rehabilitation. Journal of Athletic Training, 57(2). 125-135. Doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-0707.20

Lahti J, Mendiguchia J, Ahtiainen J, et al. (2020). Multifactorial individualised programme for hamstring muscle injury risk reduction in professional football: protocol for a prospective cohort study. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 6(1). Doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2020- 000758

Pollock, N; James, S.L.J; Lee, J.C; & Chakraverty, R. (2014). British Athletics Muscle Injury Classification: A New Grading System. BMJ Sports Medicine, 48. 1347-1351. Doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-093302


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