Hamstring tears

by Lucy Elliott

The hamstrings are a group of muscles which are made up of:

  • Semimembranosus
  • Semitendinosus
  • Bicep Femoris

You will find this muscle group located at the back of your thigh. They help the movement of the knee and can easily be damaged. Although tears and strains usually occur within athletes, they can also occur to anyone completing every day activities.

A strain/tear is described as when the muscles are overstretched or overloaded causing the muscle fibers to rip. Depending on the severity of tear, will mean they are categorized into different grades.

Hamstring Tear Grades

Grade 1: (mild) A few fibers have torn or damaged.

Grade 2: (medium) Approximately half the fibers are torn causing more symptoms.

Grade 3: (severe) Ranging from half of them ruptured, to a full rupture of the muscle.


The reason for a hamstring strain can be varied. When the hamstring is at full stretch, it vulnerable to being torn especially when the muscles are not warm enough or prepared. As mentioned, they typically occur in athletes… however, with flexibility decreasing with age, it also leaves others at risk. Here are some of the common causes;

Poor flexibility– this can lead to you overstretching the muscle causing it to tear

Overtraining– through training too much this can also cause tears and ruptures

Previous hamstring injuries– this can cause your hamstrings to be weaker and more susceptible to injury

Athletic injuries– this can be caused by extreme stretching or overloading of the muscles in a competitive environment


The majority of hamstring injuries can heal without surgery by utilizing non-surgical techniques. However, worst case scenario with a full rupture, surgery may be needed.

With acute hamstring tears the RICE principle should be followed;


Treatment can then progress to programmes of stretching and strengthening the hamstring.

Stretches consist of:

Stretches should be pain free!
Stretches should be held between 10 and 30 seconds.
Static stretches are more effective when the tissue is already warm. Therefore, after a hot bath or shower would be a prime time to stretch.


Strength programmes post hamstring tears, are essential at regaining the strength back with in the muscle to prevent injury from re-occurring. Programmes should be gradual and slowly build back up the strength without overloading the muscle too much and causing further damage.

It is always useful to ask for advice and book sessions in with professionals so that they can guide you to appropriate exercises/weights/reps for a safe and effective journey back to full fitness.

Some hamstring strengthening exercises are as follows:

Hamstring strengthening exercises

Please seek medical advice for appropriate exercise progression for a healthy return to sport/daily activities.

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