August is upon us now which is exciting for one reason, winter sporting finals are just around the corner! Whether your sport of choice is football, netball, rugby, hockey or anything in between, injuries at this time of year are as frustrating as the Dockers and Eagles performances of late…

This post will explain common muscle injuries that occur during games and how to differentiate between them. Then explain simply how to manage them in the short. If in any doubt, seeing any Apex Physio Bicton to treat it is essential to return in time for your team’s finals glory!


A muscle strain is a tear of the muscle belly and are graded depending on what percentage of muscle fibres are torn. Low grade strains recover well with a specialised rehabilitation program from your Apex Physio Bicton. Muscle strains most commonly occur in large muscle groups (e.g. quadriceps, hamstrings and calves). An athlete with a muscle strain will feel a sudden sharp pain in the muscle belly during a sprint or overstretch (kicking for example).

Pain on stretch and pain/weakness on resisted muscle contraction are common symptoms of a strain. Severity of the muscle strain can be ascertained by the athlete’s immediate response to the insult. If you can jog off the pitch and didn’t have to immediately stop when the pain came on it is a good sign. A serious muscle strain will have prolific bruising. The athlete will cause further damage to the muscle if they continue playing.

See our Bicton Physiotherapist as soon as possible after a muscle strain. Best rehabilitation results are achieved with early intervention. Strengthening and gentle walk/jogs can be started as early as 2 days post injury.


A contusion (aka cork) is a common injury in contact sports. It occurs when a large impact occurs to a muscle, causing bleeding and swelling of the area. Corks can be extremely painful limiting the player’s speed and power as excessive bleeding inhibits the muscle’s ability to contract. The athlete will be very tender over the injury site and may have bruising for many days. Compression taping can be used during a game to reduce pain, allowing the athlete to return to the field. Returning to the field will increase the bleeding in the muscle and therefore increase the length of time for the bleeding to reduce post injury. At Apex Physio Bicton we can help to shift swelling and reduce muscle tightness.


A cramp is an involuntary, painful episode of sudden muscle contraction that can last from seconds to minutes depending on the severity. Constant firing of the nerves cause a continuous muscle contraction, which can be visible to the naked eye. The exact cause of cramps has not been scientifically proven, however it is believed dehydration results in an imbalance of minerals in the body. Muscle cramps usually occur when the muscle is the most fatigued and dehydrated (end of the match).

Stretching the cramp will immediately stop the cramp occurring. Once a cramp has subsided, the muscle should return to full pain free strength and the athlete can continue to exercise. The most common muscles to cramp are hamstrings and calves, however any skeletal muscle can be affected. If you remain with a sensation of tightness or pain for days after the cramp it is advised to see an Apex Physio Bicton to rule out a minor tear that can mask as a cramp.

What to do with all muscle injuries

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) for 48 hours following injury and ceasing play. During rest it is important not to do nothing, but instead gently move the muscle actively. Just rest from running!
  • Leave ice on for 10 minutes, leave for at least 20 minutes and repeat as often as required for pain relief
  • Tubigrip or a compression bandage is the most efficient way to compress a muscle
  • A good dynamic warm-up reduces your chance of muscle strains during sport

What not to do

The following all increase the local inflammatory response, increasing pain and delaying recovery;

  • Take anti-inflammatories
  • Massage or place heat on the muscle within the first 48 hours
  • Drink alcohol within 48 hours of injury