Chronic Sequelae After Muscle Strain Injuries: Influence of Heavy Resistance Training on Functional and Structural Characteristics in a Randomized Controlled Trial

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Background: Muscle strain injury leads to a high risk of recurrent injury in sports and can cause long-term symptoms such as weakness and pain. Scar tissue formation after strain injuries has been described, yet what ultrastructural changes might occur in the chronic phase of this injury have not. It is also unknown if persistent symptoms and morphological abnormalities of the tissue can be mitigated by strength training. Purpose: To investigate if heavy resistance training improves symptoms and structural abnormalities after strain injuries. Study Design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1. Methods: A total of 30 participants with long-term weakness and/or pain after a strain injury of the thigh or calf muscles were randomized to eccentric heavy resistance training of the injured region or control exercises of the back and abdominal muscle. Isokinetic (hamstring) or isometric (calf) muscle strength was determined, muscle cross-sectional area measured, and pain and function evaluated. Scar tissue ultrastructure was determined from biopsy specimens taken from the injured area before and after the training intervention. Results: Heavy resistance training over 3 months improved pain and function, normalized muscle strength deficits, and increased muscle cross-sectional area in the previously injured region. No systematic effect of training was found upon pathologic infiltration of fat and blood vessels into the previously injured area. Control exercises had no effect on strength, cross-sectional area, or scar tissue but a positive effect on patient-related outcome measures, such as pain and functional scores. Conclusion: Short-term strength training can improve sequelae symptoms and optimize muscle function even many years after a strain injury, but it does not seem to influence the overall structural abnormalities of the area with scar tissue. Registration: NCT02152098 ( identifier).

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)2783-2794
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • chronic muscle injury, fatty infiltration, heavy resistance training, scar tissue

ID: 275775483