Your hamstring muscles are skeletal muscles at the back of your thigh. You use them to walk, climb stairs, do squats and perform many other leg movements. Hamstring injuries are the most common sports injury. Stretching, warming up and not pushing through pain in your hip, knee and leg are the best ways to avoid injuring your hamstrings.
Your hamstring muscles are skeletal muscles. They’re voluntary muscles, meaning you control how they move and work. You have three hamstring muscles at the back of your thigh. You use these muscles to walk, climb stairs, do squats and perform many other leg movements.
The hamstring muscles are very susceptible to injury, especially in athletes that run and sprint. Suddenly stopping, slowing down or changing direction puts a lot of strain on these muscles. Extending your leg when running can also overstretch these muscles. A hamstring injury is often called a “pulled hamstring.”
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Your hamstring muscles serve a variety of functions, including:
Your hamstring muscles are located in the back of the thigh, starting at your hip and inserting to the knee. Hamstring tendons attach them to bones in your pelvis, knee and lower leg.
The three hamstring muscles are:
Your hamstring muscles contain thousands of tiny, elastic muscle fibers. These fibers help the muscles contract, or tighten. Muscle fibers are red and white. So, your hamstring muscles might look striated (striped) if you could see them under your skin.
A hamstring muscle strain is the result of overstretched muscle fibers. Hamstring strains can range from mild to severe:
Hamstring muscle injuries are the most common sports injury. One study suggests they account for about 37% of all soccer injuries.
Hamstring muscle injuries are common in athletes who run at fast speeds. This includes sprinters and people who play soccer, basketball and football. They can also occur in skiers, skaters, dancers and other athletes who often have their knees bent in deep squat positions.
You’re also at risk for hamstring muscle injuries if you:
Hamstring muscle injuries may cause:
Take care of your hamstring muscles by:
Contact your doctor right away if you:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your hamstring muscles play a vital role in helping you walk, run, bend your knees and extend your legs. But these muscles are also very susceptible to injury, especially if you play soccer or football — or do other activities that require a lot of quick stops and starts. While most hamstring muscle injuries heal with conservative treatments, some require surgery. You can take care of your hamstring muscles and reduce your risk of injury by incorporating proper warm up and stretches prior to physical activity. You should also rest your muscles if you feel pain or fatigue. More importantly, if pain persists in the back of your thigh, seek immediate attention.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/18/2021.
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