Muscle strains involve injury or trauma to the muscle fibres, this can be anything from added stress causing pain and tightness or tearing of a few of the muscle fibres to complete rupture of the muscle, either across the muscle belly or at the insertion of the muscle into the bone. Generally, however, muscle injuries such as blows to the Quads causing a dead leg or other such impact are relatively minor.
Management of musculature the first few days post-injury is similar to that of any other acute injury. If swelling and/or bruising are present, ice should be applied according to RICE protocol. If the musculature is just painful and/or tight, then management tends to change slightly.
- Maintain muscle length through appropriate stretching: this maintains length and helps prevent further injury. Stretching is advised prior to and post-training or match play, helpful to then prevent injury.
- Adequate warm-up: many muscle injuries are due to inadequate warm up or cool down; muscles seize due to sudden temperature, load or pace changes.
- Foam Roller: foam rollers work in the lengthening of shortened muscle fibres by putting extra pressure on tight spots in the muscles, with the aim of encouraging these areas to release and lengthen. Useful as a prophylactic (also known as ‘prehab’) treatment, to maintain muscle length outside periods of injury.
- Heat: only to be placed on muscles where no bruising or swelling is present. Heat encourages relaxation; therefore use of a heat pack or hot water bottle on tight musculature can aid pain relief and resolution of trigger points.
- Massage: massage employs several techniques, such as trigger point release to work on specific tight spots and muscle mobilisation for lengthening tightened fibres/strands in muscle bellies. Massage can be helpful but has better effect when used in combination with the other methods addressed above.