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Home > “Dead Leg”: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

“Dead Leg”: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Boyd W. Haynes III, MD

Dead Leg, also known as a thigh contusion, is a common sports injury that causes significant pain and discomfort, and if left untreated, can lead to complications such as nerve damage and muscle weakness. In this article, I will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for dead leg.


Dead leg is caused by a direct impact or trauma to the thigh muscles, resulting in bleeding and bruising. The impact can be from a variety of sources, including collisions with other players or objects, falls, or even sudden stops or changes in direction. The severity of the injury depends on the force of the impact and the area affected. In more severe cases, the blood vessels in the thigh can be ruptured, causing internal bleeding and swelling.


The most common symptom of dead leg is pain and tenderness in the thigh muscles. The pain is usually immediate and can be severe, making it difficult to walk or move the leg. The thigh may also be swollen, bruised, and discolored. In some cases, the bleeding can cause a lump or hematoma to form under the skin. Dead leg can also cause weakness in the affected leg, making it difficult to bear weight or perform normal activities.


The treatment of dead leg depends on the severity of the injury. In mild cases, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) therapy can be effective in reducing pain and swelling. RICE therapy involves resting the affected leg, applying ice to the area (always with a barrier between the ice and the skin and icing intermittently), using compression bandages to reduce swelling, and elevating the leg above heart level.

In more severe cases, medical attention may be required, and I may need to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs/steroids to manage pain and swelling. I may also need to drain any hematoma (a collection of blood) or perform a procedure called aspiration to remove excess fluid from the affected area. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to repair any damage to the muscle or blood vessels.

Rehabilitation is also an important part of the treatment process for dead leg. Physical therapy will help to improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility in the affected leg, as well as provide modalities to help with swelling, inflammation, and healing. This will include exercises such as stretching, resistance training, and mobility exercises. A physical therapist will also provide guidance on how to safely return to sports or other physical activities.

Prevention of Dead Leg

Preventing dead leg involves taking steps to reduce the risk of impact or trauma to the thigh muscles. This includes wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as pads, and practicing safe playing techniques. It is also important to warm up properly before any physical activity, as well as maintain proper nutrition and hydration to support muscle health.


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