Sports Coaching



Home > Sports Injuries > Dead Leg

Dead Leg / Contusion

What is a dead leg?

A dead leg is the common name for a contusion. This occurs when a muscle suffers an impact injury, which causes muscular damage as it is crushed against the underlying bone. This type of injury is most common in contact sports and sports where hard balls or equipment such as hockey sticks are used.

A contusion can occur at any muscle, although are most common in the thigh and hamstring muscles. Contusions can be either intramuscular or intermuscular. Intermuscular tears cause more bruising and appear more severe than intramuscular tears, although often heal quicker.


  • Pain at the point of impact.
  • You may get swelling or bruising.
  • Reduced range of motion is common.

Like muscle strain, contusions can be graded, depending on severity, as either grade 1, 2 or 3.

Grade 1

  • Tightness in the thigh or hamstrings depending where the impact was.
  • Gait is affected, you may walk with a limp.
  • Little, if any swelling.
  • Contracting the muscle against resistance is probably pain-free.

Grade 2

  • Walking is badly affected.
  • Painful twinges limit activity.
  • Swelling.
  • Tender to touch.
  • Contracting the muscle against resistance causes pain.
  • Loss of full range of motion.

Grade 3

  • You will probably need crutches to walk.
  • Severe pain.
  • Lots of swelling.
  • Contraction of the muscle is painful.


It is very important to treat the injury as soon as possible after it happening. The first thing you should do is apply ice or cold therapy to the area for 15 minutes. This will help ease pain and reduce bleeding and swelling. Don't keep the ice on for longer than 15 minutes as this can reverse the effect. Keep applying ice every 2-3 hours. Follow the rest of the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol too.

Not following the RICE protocol or applying heat or massage techniques too early can lead to a condition called myositis ossificans. This is where excess bone grows within the muscle and you end up with a hard lump of bone, restricted movement, reduced strength and pain in the muscle. Massage therapy and other physiotherapy treatments should not be used until all bleeding has stopped. To be on the safe side, always leave at least 72 hours before commencing any such treatment.

See a sports injury specialist after resting for a few days who may:

  • Use sports massage techniques to reduce swelling and loosen the muscle fibres.
  • Use ultrasound.
  • Give you stretching and strengthening exercises

Further Information

  • Dead leg - for further information on treatment including rehabilitation, taping, sports massage, stretching and more visit sportsinjuryclinic.net




The quadriceps muscles which can be torn in a thigh strain

Learn more about:



Find us on Facebook

Teach PE