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Muscle injuries (sports)

 Muscle injuries (sports)

There are several types of muscle injuries.

To learn more about it, check out our full profile below.

What are muscle injuries?

Here we've rounded up the different types of muscle injuries - from cramps to complete muscle tears - that can occur in an active sport, whether you're a beginner, a seasoned athlete, a competitor or a high-level practitioner.

These injuries, which mainly involve the lower extremities (the thigh and calf muscles) as well as the adductors, can harm the recreational sports activity or competitive goals of the athlete.

Managing muscle injuries has three important goals:

quick recovery and return to normal sports activity;

not transition to chronic infection;

Reduction in the risk of recurrence upon resumption of sports activity.

Each year, approximately 9% of all Quebecers between the ages of 6 and 74 who engage in a sporting or recreational activity suffer an injury that requires a consultation with a health professional1. (This statistic includes all types of accidental injuries, including bone fractures) .

Types of muscle injuries

There are several types of muscle injuries, depending on the circumstances, the context of the accident, and data from the history and clinical examination.

Muscle strain

It is not a muscle injury in the strict sense of the word but rather a temporary dysfunction. The cramp actually corresponds to a very painful, involuntary and transient contraction, similar to crunching affecting one or more muscles.

It can occur while resting, while sleeping, or upon exertion. The origin of convulsions that occur in a complex mathematical context. They may be the result of a lack of oxygen or blood electrolytes, or a buildup of stress-related toxins.

It could be the result of muscle fatigue or dehydration.

a bruise

It is the result of direct trauma to the muscle, most often in the contractile phase or in the resting state. This is manifested by localized pain at the point of impact, by swelling and sometimes a bruise (hematoma or hematoma under the skin after a blood vessel rupture, colloquially called a contusion).

These manifestations are more significant and profound as the initial trauma is severe.


This is the first stage of muscle damage. Corresponds to excessive muscle elongation. Elongation occurs during excessive muscle tone or after a very strong contraction. Some muscle fibers are stretched and broken. So they are very limited, even "microscopic".

Elongation is manifested by stress pain, which does not cause lameness nor hematoma. The affected person feels sharp pain, such as a tingling, when starting, for example, or in a weakly heated or tired muscle. The effort is still possible although a bit painful.

The quadriceps (anterior thigh muscle) and the back of the thigh (hamstring) are most susceptible to strain. Exercising is still possible but painful.


The breakdown also corresponds to an elongation mechanism in which many fibers are broken and bled. The pain is sharp, like a stab in the muscle. A crackling sensation is sometimes felt, hence the term popping.

This is also referred to as a stage 2 tear. In the stress stage, sports activity is no longer possible. Walking also became difficult.


A muscle tear is similar to a muscle fracture, like a bone fracture. The pain reaches such a point that it sometimes causes discomfort and falls. These tears mainly concern the hamstrings, adductors, and calves ("tennis leg").

Supporting the member is very difficult and the continuation of sports activity has become impossible. Bleeding is important and it doesn't take long for the hematoma to appear.

In fact, all possible mediators between minor elongation and small collapse and tear and accurate classification of a muscle lesion can be difficult to estimate by a single clinical examination.

Hence the importance of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the two examinations of choice when it comes to making an accurate diagnosis or measuring a lesion, particularly for diagnosing a rupture.


The main feature of a muscle is its ability to produce movement-producing contractions.

Its classic representation shows bulging muscle tissue in the middle, which is continued at the ends by two tendons. It consists of several long, thin fibers (some of them along the muscles), arranged in parallel, grouped in bundles and separated by connective tissue. This fiber reinforcement allows the muscle to be shortened, which is synonymous with movement.

But contrary to popular belief, muscles aren't just dedicated to movement or gestural activity. In fact, many muscles are bent at rest; This is called muscle tone that allows for example to stand up.

Muscle injuries: causes

As we have seen, the vast majority of muscle injuries involve the lower extremities (groin and calf) and are often consecutive to exercise sports, especially contact sports (football, hockey, boxing, rugby, etc.), acrobatic sports (snowboarding, skiing, etc.) and those that require a quick start (tennis, basketball, sprinting, etc.).

Muscle injuries may be observed:

at the beginning of the year

Excessive training (excessive training) or inadequate training, insufficient or poor warm-up, poor athletic gesture ...

At the end of the fiscal year

Fatigue and lack of muscle flexibility.

when doing sports

poor-quality athletic gesture, sudden, violent, uncoordinated movements, especially if there is an imbalance between the strength of the agonist muscles (which do the movement) and the antagonist muscles (which do the opposite) - eg, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings .


during direct trauma to a hard object (contraction, knee of another athlete, pole, etc.);

due to severe or prolonged exertion;

due to a poorly healed anterior muscle injury;

In the event of overweight

when using inappropriate training equipment (shoes in particular);

due to a very hard training surface (bitumen, concrete, etc.);

in the absence of adequate hydration, before, during or after exercise;

when the diet is insufficient;

in the absence of stretching after the effort and more generally, insufficient muscle stretching compared to muscle stretches;

While exercising in a cold environment.


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