How long will Cubs Justin Steele be out with hamstring injury?

March 29, 2024

Cubs starting pitcher Justin Steele was removed from yesterday’s Opening Day after reportedly suffering a hamstring strain, as he was seen clutching his posterior thigh after fielding a ball in the fifth inning.

Hamstring strains are a prevalent source of lower extremity pain and limitation in explosive athletes. Strains occur when the hamstring muscles are either stretched beyond their normal range or during rapid overload actions, most commonly including sudden acceleration or deceleration while running, jumping, or kicking.

The severity of his hamstring injury and its prognosis are dictated in large part by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which is best able to show the hamstring muscles and tendons. Low-grade strains of the muscle belly and of the muscle-tendon junction often heal well with a few weeks of rest and physical therapy. More severe hamstring strains, including partial-thickness and full-thickness tears, warrant a longer recovery course.

If Justin Steele’s injury is limited to a minor strain, a few weeks of rest and physical therapy will likely be his path back to the mound, although again, his MRI will best dictate his course of recovery. If there is a higher grade strain, the length of time to return will be based on his level of pain, strength, and ability to pitch. Many athletes successfully return to high-level competition without restriction following a thorough course of recovery after a hamstring injury.”

Dr. Shane J. Nho, sports surgeon at Midwest Orthopedics at RUSH, shares insight into hamstring injuries and recovery.

Understanding hamstring injuries

Hamstring injuries are common, especially among athletes involved in sports that require sudden bursts of acceleration, deceleration, and quick changes in direction, such as baseball. One recent example is Justin Steele, who suffered a hamstring injury during the season opener.

Anatomy of the hamstring

The hamstring muscles are located at the back of the thigh and are crucial for activities involving knee flexion and hip extension. These muscles consist of three main parts: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.

Types of hamstring injuries

  1. Strains: Hamstring strains occur when the muscle fibers are stretched beyond their capacity. These injuries can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of damage to the muscle tissue.
  2. Tears: In more severe cases, a hamstring tear may occur, involving a partial or complete rupture of the muscle. Tears often result from sudden, forceful movements or overstretching of the muscle.


Common symptoms of hamstring injuries include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the back of the thigh
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Difficulty walking or bending the knee
  • Muscle weakness or tightness

Treatment and recovery

Treatment for hamstring injuries typically involves:

  • Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE)
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility
  • Gradual return to activity and sport-specific training

Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the injury but may take several weeks to months. It's crucial to follow a comprehensive rehabilitation program to prevent re-injury and optimize long-term outcomes.


To reduce the risk of hamstring injuries, athletes should:

  • Warm up properly before exercise or sports activity
  • Incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises for the hamstrings
  • Maintain overall flexibility and strength
  • Use proper technique and mechanics during sports participation