Leg Injuries - Topic Overview
Minor leg injuries are common. Symptoms often
develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury. Leg injuries are
most likely to occur during:
- Sports or recreational
- Work-related tasks.
- Work or projects around
Most leg injuries in children and teens occur during sports or
play or from accidental falls. The risk for injury is higher in contact sports,
such as wrestling, football, or soccer, and in high-speed sports, such as biking,
in-line skating, skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. Knees, ankles, and
feet are the most affected body areas. Any injury occurring at the end of a
long bone near a joint may injure the growth plate and needs to be checked by a
Older adults have a higher risk for injuries and fractures
because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteoporosis)
as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which
increases their risk for accidental injury.
Most minor injuries
will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to
relieve symptoms and promote healing.
An acute injury may occur
from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, a fall, or from twisting, jerking,
jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising
and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries usually require
prompt medical evaluation and may include:
- Bruises (contusions ), which occur when small
blood vessels under the skin tear or rupture, often from a twist, bump, or
fall. Blood leaks into tissues under the skin and causes a black-and-blue color
that often turns colors, including purple, red, yellow, and green, as the
- Injuries to the tough, ropey fibers (ligaments)
that connect bone to bone and help stabilize joints (sprains).
- Injuries to the tough, ropey
fibers that connect muscle to bone (tendons), such as a ruptured
- Pulled muscles (strains), such as a hamstring strain.
- Muscle ruptures, such as gastrocnemius
- Broken bones (fractures). A
break, such as a lower leg fracture , may occur when a bone is twisted, bent, jammed, struck directly, or used
to brace against a fall.
- Pulling or pushing bones out of the normal
relationship to the other bones that make up a joint (dislocations).
Overuse injuries occur when too much
stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity
or doing the same activity repeatedly. Overuse injuries include:
- Inflammation of the sac of fluid that cushions
and lubricates the bones (bursitis).
tearing, or fraying of the tough, ropey fibers that connect muscles to bones
- Hairline cracks in bones, such as stress fractures of the foot .
- Inflammation of the fibrous covering of the
bone (periosteum) where muscle fibers attach to it (shin splints).
- Inflammation of the plantar fascia, a broad, flat
ligament on the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis).
- Inflammation at the top of the shinbone (tibia)
where the patellar tendon attaches to a bony prominence (Osgood-Schlatter disease). This is more likely to
occur during rapid growth periods and is usually seen in athletic teenagers,
especially those who play football, basketball, or soccer, and those who are
involved with gymnastics and dance. Osgood-Schlatter disease involves both legs
about 25% of the time and is rarely a chronic, lifelong condition.