Our muscles are susceptible to various kinds of injury through sports and everyday life. These include delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following exercise, contusions, strains, and on the more severe end of the spectrum full ruptures.

This post will take a closer look at hamstring strains, what they are, and how to go about rehab if you find yourself experiencing one.


The hamstrings are a group of muscles at the back of the thigh which work across two joints: they are responsible for extending the hip and/or bending the knee depending on which part is active.

Strains can occur when muscles are contracting and placed under an extreme load for example when sprinting or when put under an excessive stretch like when kicking in AFL.

For this reason, hamstring strains are very common in dancers, sprinters, soccer players, and football codes during sprinting or kicking.

Three hallmark features of a hamstring strain are:

  • Immediate onset of pain at the back of the thigh.
  • Tenderness at the back of the thigh may have associated swelling or bruising.
  • Reduced strength and ability to bend and straighten the knee.

Rehab progression and when physiotherapy can help

Hamstring strains during sports can be frustrating for amateur and elite athletes as they generally require time away from play to focus on specific rehabilitation.

Although hamstring strain rehab has been researched extensively there is no clear consensus on how much time a person should wait before returning to sport. Rather progression toward sport is guided by symptoms and performance-based criteria:

Initial (acute) phase

  • PEACE and LOVE
  • Aim to achieve pain-free walking and recover adequate muscle strength.

Subacute phase

  • Progressive strengthening and progressing to light jogging activity.
  • Aim to have balanced muscle strength between injured and un-injured sides and pre-injury sprinting ability with no symptoms or flare-ups.

Return to Sport

  • This phase is sport specific but in general, will involve a gradual return to sport-specific drills and fulfilling the physical requirements of the sport without symptoms of flare-ups.

A physiotherapist can help with managing hamstring strains at all the above rehabilitation stages and can be particularly helpful if you require advice and guidance on:

  • Managing recovery at home if you are unsure about what to do or utilise the exercise equipment (if any) you have available to you.
  • Depending on the severity of the strain it may take weeks to months to progress through each stage taking into consideration pain and muscle function. A physiotherapist can make sure your rehabilitation is on track and personalised for you.
  • If you want to return to higher level sport and/or prevent future injury the biggest risk factor for a hamstring strain is having strained it once already! This is related to combinations of ongoing strength deficits and reduced coordination of hamstring muscle contractions which should be addressed through a well-structured long-term rehabilitation program.


If you have experienced any of the above then get in touch with your local Sports & Spinal Physiotherapist today to see how they can get you on the right road to recovery.

Written by Sports and Spinal Physiotherapist, Kirby Pitt


Askling W, & Schache A. (2017). Posterior thigh pain. Brukner P, & Clarsen B, & Cook J, & Cools A, & Crossley K, & Hutchinson M, & McCrory P, & Bahr R, & Khan K(Eds.), Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine: Injuries, Volume 1, 5e. McGraw Hill. https://csm.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=1970§ionid=168694448