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What causes muscle strain?

Muscle strains may occur as a result of an accident or as a result of overuse. If it occurs due to an accident, it's called an acute strain. This usually happens when there's sudden stretching or pulling of a muscle, and it often happens when you lift a heavy object, slip, or somehow pull it unusually far while running or jumping. Sometimes, a muscle strain may happen if you don't warm up properly before running or doing another physical activity. If the strain is a result of overuse of your muscle, it's called a chronic strain. This often happens to people whose jobs require a lot of lifting or physical activity, or to people who play sports like tennis, golf, and gymnastics that require constant, repetitive motions.

Two common causes of muscle strains are:

1. Being in a position where the muscle is stretched to its endpoint and then is forcefully contracted (e.g., a soccer player preparing to kick by bringing the foot far behind the body and then aggressively bringing the leg forward to strike the ball, resulting in a strained hip flexor).

2. Aggressive eccentric contractions (e.g., a gymnast landing a dismount repetitively, absorbing energy with the legs, resulting in a strained quadriceps).

(This answer provided for NATA by the Weber State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.