Risk factors of recurrent hamstring injuries: a systematic review

Br J Sports Med. 2012 Feb;46(2):124-30. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2011-090317. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Background: Although recurrent hamstring injury is a frequent problem with a significant impact on athletes, data on factors determining the risk for a recurrent hamstring injury are scarce.

Objective: To systematically review the literature and provide an overview of risk factors for re-injury of acute hamstring muscle injuries.

Study design: Prospective studies on risk factors for re-injury following acute hamstring injuries were systematically reviewed. Medical databases and reference lists of the included articles were searched. Two reviewers independently selected potential studies and assessed methodological quality; one reviewer extracted the data. A best-evidence synthesis of all studied risk factors was performed.

Results: Of the 131 articles identified, five prospective follow-up studies fulfilled our inclusion criteria. These studies reported a recurrence incidence of 13.9-63.3% in the same playing season up to 2 years after initial injury. Limited evidence for three risk factors and one protective factor for recurrent hamstring injury was found; patients with a recurrent hamstring injury had an initial injury with a larger volume size as measured on MRI (47.03 vs 12.42 cm(3)), more often had a Grade 1 initial trauma (Grade 0: 0-30.4%; Grade 1: 60.9-100%; Grade 2: 8.7%) and more often had a previous ipsilateral anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction (66.6% vs 17.1%) independent of graft selection. Athletes in a rehabilitation programme with agility/stabilisation exercises rather than strength/stretching exercises had a lower risk for re-injury (7.7% vs 70%). No significant relationship with re-injury was found for 11 related determinants. There was conflicting evidence that a larger cross-sectional area is a risk factor for recurrent hamstring injury.

Conclusions: There is limited evidence that athletes with a larger volume size of initial trauma, a Grade 1 hamstring injury and a previous ipsilateral ACL reconstruction are at increased risk for recurrent hamstring injury. Athletes seem to be at lower risk for re-injury when following agility/stabilisation exercises.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Leg Injuries / etiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Thigh / injuries