Your knees help support your body and allow your legs to bend and straighten, providing the foundation for you to walk, run, jump and turn. On the back of your thighs are the hamstring muscles, and at the bottom of those muscles are the tendons that cross the back of the knee joint, connecting the muscle to the tibia, a bone below the knee.
When the tendons are in good shape, there's no need to think about them very much. When they're strained or torn, however, they can really wreak havoc on not only your workout or athletic performance, but also on your everyday life.
Although hamstring strains seemingly refer to the muscle itself, it typically refers to how the muscle interacts with the tendon. Muscle strains often occur where the muscle meets the tendon, though it can also happen in the thick middle part of the muscle. In the worst-case scenario, the hamstring tendon tears completely away from the tibial bone
In a less severe — though still debilitating — concern, hamstring tendinopathy occurs when the tendons are irritated or the tendon degenerates. Because the tendon is thick, fibrous and has poor blood supply, the area is slow to heal. Despite the location of the injury, you're more likely to feel pain radiating up the back of your thigh or deep in your glutes.
Tears, strains and tendinopathy can happen to anyone; however, it's more likely in football, basketball and soccer players, runners, dancers and both older athletes and adolescents. A lack of or an insufficient warm-up, repetitive motions and overtraining all contribute to these injuries.
Strengthening the Tendons
Generally speaking, any exercise that strengthens the hamstring muscles will also strengthen its tendons. Start with mild stretches and exercises. If you've been severely injured, begin exercising only with the OK of a medical professional and, ideally, under the supervision of a physical therapist.
When you're ready to do heavier movements or you're doing exercises to prevent injury, options include: