Hamstring injuries can be a common setback for athletes and active individuals alike. Whether you're a tennis player, soccer enthusiast, or simply someone engaged in physical activities, it's important to understand the nature of hamstring injuries to prevent and manage them effectively.

Just yesterday, the tennis world was shocked by the news that Serena Williams had to withdraw in the first round of Wimbledon due to an injury. It was initially thought that she may have suffered an ankle injury when she slipped on the grass courts during her match. However, later on in the day, it was suggested that it was in fact, a hamstring injury as opposed to an ankle injury.  

In cases like these, seeking professional help from experts like Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists can provide valuable guidance and treatment options to ensure a proper recovery.

What is a Hamstring Injury?

The hamstrings are a group of three large muscles located at the back of your thigh: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris. These muscles originate from the pelvis and run down the back of the leg, inserting just below the knee joint. They play a crucial role in knee flexion, hip extension, and rotation.

A hamstring injury, also known as a hamstring strain, occurs when these muscles are subjected to more force than they can handle or when they are overstretched. This often happens during activities that involve sudden acceleration, deceleration, or jumping, such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and track events.


Several factors can increase the risk of experiencing a hamstring injury:

  • Poor flexibility and mobility: Insufficient stretching and warm-up routines can contribute to tight muscles and make the hamstrings more prone to injury.
  • Muscle imbalances: Weakness or imbalance between the hamstrings and other muscle groups can place additional stress on the hamstrings.
  • Previous hamstring injury: Once you've had a hamstring injury, the risk of re-injury may be higher if proper rehabilitation and preventive measures were not taken.

In Serena Williams’ case, there were likely multiple factors at play. Less than one month ago, during the French Open, she had her right thigh heavily taped, which is the same leg that was injured yesterday. Additionally, the quick stopping and starting required in tennis, plus the slippery surface of the grass courts, could have led to excessive stretching and hamstring strain. 


When it comes to hamstring injuries, the symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Here is a breakdown of symptoms based on different grades of hamstring injuries:

Grade 1 (Mild hamstring strains)

  • Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh.
  • Difficulty moving your leg, but your strength remains unaffected.

Grade 2 (Partial Tear)

  • More intense pain compared to grade 1.
  • Swelling, bruising, and possible loss of strength in your leg.

Grade 3 (Severe Tear)

  • Intense pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising.
  • Possible popping sensation during the injury.
  • Significant loss of strength in your leg.

Additional symptoms that may accompany a hamstring injury include:

  • Bump or knot in the thigh area.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Muscle stiffness, especially after a cool-down period.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

To evaluate and diagnose a hamstring injury, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. They may perform a thorough physical examination, assessing the location and severity of the pain, range of motion, muscle strength, and other relevant factors. In some cases, imaging tests such as an MRI may be ordered to determine the extent of the injury.

Treatment Options

The treatment approach for hamstring injuries depends on the severity and extent of the injury. 

Home Remedies

  • R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These steps can help reduce pain and swelling.
    • Rest: Avoid activities that worsen the pain and allow the muscle to heal.
    • Ice: Apply ice packs to the injured area for about 15 minutes, several times a day, to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
    • Compression: Use a compression wrap or elastic thigh sleeve to provide support and reduce swelling.
    • Elevation: Elevate the injured leg whenever possible to help reduce swelling.
  • Gentle range of motion exercises: Perform gentle strengthening exercises to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness. For example, gently raise and lower the leg during the icing period while sitting on a table with the injured leg hanging off. After icing, lie in a prone position on your stomach and continue to gently bend and straighten the leg.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers: You may consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as pills, creams, or gels, to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Crutches: If walking is too painful, crutches can help relieve weight-bearing on the injured leg.

Physical Therapy

In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to aid in recovery and rehabilitation. The following techniques may be employed:

  • Strength exercises: Specific exercises will be prescribed to strengthen the hamstring muscles and surrounding areas gradually.
  • Flexibility exercises: Stretching exercises will help improve flexibility and restore the normal range of motion.
  • Functional exercises: Activities that simulate real-life movements and sports-specific tasks may be included to help you return to your normal activities safely.


While hamstring injuries are not always completely preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Prioritize flexibility and mobility: Incorporate regular stretching and warm-up exercises before engaging in physical activities.
  • Maintain muscle balance: Strengthen the hamstrings and surrounding muscle groups to achieve better overall muscle balance.
  • Gradual progression: Increase the intensity and duration of activities gradually to allow your muscles to adapt.
  • Proper technique: Learn and practice proper body mechanics and technique during sports and exercise.

Risk Factors

Many risk factors that contribute to hamstring injuries also play a role in foot and ankle injuries. This is especially true for individuals who spend prolonged periods of time sitting, such as student-athletes or those with sedentary jobs. Sitting for extended periods can lead to lower leg injuries like hamstring strains, tendinitis, or plantar fasciitis. 

The following factors explain how sitting affects the body:

  • Tightening of hip flexors: When you sit for a long time, the muscles in the front of your hip, called hip flexors, tend to tighten.
  • Weakening of gluteal muscles: Prolonged sitting can cause your gluteal muscles to weaken, contributing to imbalanced muscle function.
  • Shortening and tightening of hamstrings: The hamstrings, located at the back of your thigh, can become shortened and tightened due to prolonged sitting.
  • Pelvic tilt: Tight hip flexors and weakened gluteal muscles may lead to a forward tilt of the pelvis.
  • Leg rotation and foot pronation: The forward tilt of the pelvis can cause the legs to rotate inward and the foot to roll in. This is known as pronation.
  • Foot pronation and injuries: Pronation can increase the risk of foot and ankle injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and tendinitis.
  • Importance of muscle balance: Maintaining proper muscle balance is crucial for enhancing joint stability and preventing hamstring muscle strain and injury.

Tips to Prevent Future Injuries

It's important to address these issues early and incorporate preventive measures into your routine to prevent future injuries. Here are some tips:

  • Work on mobility and flexibility
    • Perform regular stretching exercises for hips, knees, ankles, and spine.
    • Utilize foam rollers and massage sticks for self-myofascial release.
  • Take breaks from prolonged sitting
    • Stand up, stretch, and walk around at least once an hour during long periods of sitting.
    • Avoid overstretching muscles and listen to your body's limits.
  • Strength and core training
    • Maintain a well-rounded training program that includes strength exercises.
    • Focus on core exercises to improve stability and balance.
  • Strengthen intrinsic foot muscles
    • Target the small muscles in the feet with specific exercises for better foot stability.
    • This can provide improved support and reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Allow for rest days
    • Schedule regular rest days to give your muscles time to recover and repair.
    • Rest is crucial for preventing overuse injuries.
  • Understand the body's interconnectedness
    • Recognize that different parts of the body work together.
    • Address imbalances or weaknesses to prevent compensations and potential injuries.

By following these tips, you can proactively reduce the risk of future injuries and maintain overall physical well-being.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you experience significant pain, difficulty walking, or suspect a hamstring injury, it is advisable to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider. They can provide a comprehensive evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Trust Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists for Expert Hamstring Injury Care

Hamstring injuries can be a significant obstacle for athletes and active individuals. By understanding the causes and preventive measures for hamstring injuries, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself from such setbacks.

At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, we specialize in providing comprehensive care for a wide range of foot and ankle conditions, including hamstring injuries. Our team of experienced specialists is dedicated to helping patients recover and regain their strength, mobility, and performance. With advanced diagnostic tools, evidence-based treatment approaches, and personalized care, we strive to provide our patients the highest level of service.

If you have recently suffered a hamstring injury or want to prevent future injuries, visit   Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our experts will assess your condition, create a personalized treatment plan, and guide you through the recovery process. 

Don't let a hamstring injury hold you back from pursuing your athletic goals. Take the first step towards a healthier, more active life by scheduling a consultation with us now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can severe hamstring injuries lead to long-term complications?

In some cases, untreated or recurrent hamstring injuries can lead to long-term complications, such as chronic pain, muscle weakness, and decreased mobility. Seeking prompt medical attention and following a proper rehabilitation program can help minimize the risk of long-term complications.

Are there any specific exercises to strengthen the hamstrings?

Yes, several exercises, such as hamstring curls, deadlifts, glute bridges, and Nordic hamstring curls, can help strengthen the hamstrings. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified trainer to ensure proper form and technique.

Can hamstring injuries be more common in certain age groups?

Hamstring injuries can affect individuals of all age groups, but they may be more prevalent in older individuals due to factors such as decreased muscle elasticity, reduced flexibility, and changes in muscle strength and coordination.

Are there any specific footwear recommendations to prevent hamstring injuries?

While specific footwear may not directly prevent hamstring injuries, it is essential to wear appropriate shoes that provide adequate support, stability, and cushioning for the chosen activity. Ill-fitting or unsuitable footwear can contribute to poor biomechanics and increased injury risk.