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It may happen that the same day you have practice with your team, a friend might invite you to go kick the ball around or play before practice. If your muscles are not used to the amount of activity in one day, maybe you will wake up next day, or the day after, and feel some parts of your body being achy or sore. Or, it can be that during a soccer game or practice there is a sharp pain in one of your muscles that keeps you from running as much as you want. How can you tell between being sore or being injured?

How would you know if your muscles are sore or strained?

There are several signs that differentiate between having sore muscles, or a strained muscle:

Sore MuscleMuscle Strain
Delayed onset of pain (24-48 hrs)Pain is felt suddenly at time of activity
Pain feels all over muscle(s)Pain is localized on one specific area
Usually feels better within 2-3 daysPain can persist for days or weeks
Usually is sore on both sidesUsually only one side
Stretching is uncomfortable, but not painfulStretching is painful
Able to contract but it “hurts”Unable to fully contract due to Pain
Dull and achy painSharp Pain
 If severe, swelling, deformity and loss of function can prevail

If athlete is unable to put weight on it or has a visible deformity make sure they see a doctor.

How can you prevent a muscle strain?

The best treatment for muscle strain injuries is prevention, which should include training to maintain and/or improve strength, flexibility, endurance, co-ordination and agility. Many reasons have been given for muscle strain injuries, such as poor muscle strength and/or endurance , lack of flexibility, insufficient time for warm-up and stretching prior to exercise, and return to activity before complete recovery following injury.

What can you do to treat your injury?

Treatment for muscle strain injuries includes:

  1. Rest, immobilization and ice immediately and for the next 2-3 days following injury. (Stretching a strained muscle will only delay recovery and not help)
  2. A gradual increase of mobilization, activity and strengthening.
  3. Return to full activity should not be done until complete return of muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility is achieved, in addition to return of agility and coordination.

Failure to achieve a slow and progressive return to play will only predispose athletes to re-injury.

Can you prevent soreness?

There are conflicting results on the best ways of preventing soreness and helping the body to recover. Some research has shown that taking ice baths after practices helps prevent DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) while other research has dismissed the idea of taking anti-inflammatories. The most appropriate recommendations are to have a proper cool-down after practices and exercise. And, If you are already sore, it might be better to keep moving by jogging or walking (warm-up) until body temperature increases, then stretch out your muscles.