If you watch sport regularly, there's a good chance you've heard about players being off the field because of a hamstring injury. And if you play a sport yourself, it might just be one of the things you dread the most.
Despite its misleading name, the hamstring is actually three separate muscles that are situated at the back of each thigh. They're often called by this name and considered a single part because they work in unison when you use your knees.
Unfortunately, straining these muscles is an extremely common injury for people playing sport. The problem is that they're susceptible to damage whenever you're running a lot while frequently stopping and starting, and there are a lot of different sports that involve just that. If you injure a hamstring, you'll probably know about it right away, as it's pretty painful. This is what you should do next.
Stop what you're doing!
If you think you've sustained a hamstring injury, under no circumstances should you try to carry on with whatever activity you were doing. Trying to push through it will only make the injury more severe. If you have to leave the playing field, your teammates will understand. Besides, you won't be able to perform at your best.
Stay off your feet
Sit down right away and don't try to put any weight on the injured leg. Stay rested until you can get home, and make sure you have a lift arranged so you don't have to do any unnecessary walking.
Use ice and elevation
As soon as possible after the injury, apply ice to the area, preferably in conjunction with a compression strap. Keep the leg elevated as much as possible, and reapply ice every few hours. An anti-inflammatory painkiller like ibuprofen will help relieve the pain and swelling.
It's a good idea to consult a physiotherapist to help your hamstring recover. While it should heal on its own, it can take quite a while without treatment, which is particularly inconvenient if you play sport regularly. Make sure you attend appointments whenever you need to, and follow the treatment plan.
Prevent future injuries
If you've injured a hamstring once, it can happen again. Minimise the chances of this by ensuring you properly warm up before any activity, paying particular attention to the backs of the thighs. It's also a good idea to talk to a physiotherapist about your running technique, as they might be able to make suggestions for improvements that will reduce your injury risk.