Myositis Ossificans in Athletes : Prevention and Management

Myositis ossificans, a condition characterized by the abnormal growth of bone tissue in muscles or soft tissues, is a concern for athletes across various disciplines. Often resulting from high-impact injuries or repeated trauma, this condition can significantly affect an athlete’s performance and career. Understanding the prevention and management strategies for myositis ossificans is crucial for athletes, coaches, and sports medicine professionals. 

Understanding Myositis Ossificans in the Athletic Context:

Myositis ossificans typically occurs following a deep muscle bruise or a repetitive strain injury. In athletes, this can be due to direct blows, falls, or repeated overuse of specific muscle groups. The body, in response to injury, begins an inflammatory process that sometimes leads to the formation of bone within the muscle. 

Risk Factors for Myositis Ossificans in Athletes

Apart from direct trauma and repetitive contusions, other factors that increase the risk of MO in athletes include:

  • Age: MO is more common in younger athletes, particularly those between the ages of 10 and 25.
  • Gender: Male athletes are more likely to develop MO than female athletes.
  • Sport: Certain sports, such as football, rugby, and boxing, have a higher incidence of MO due to the increased risk of direct trauma and repetitive contusions.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing MO. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Myositis Ossificans in Athletes:

The symptoms of MO in athletes typically appear within 2-3 weeks of the injury and can include:

  • Pain: Pain is the most common symptom of MO and is usually localized to the affected area.
  • Swelling: Swelling is another common symptom of MO and can be accompanied by redness and warmth.
  • Stiffness: MO can cause stiffness in the affected muscle, which can limit range of motion.
  • Decreased muscle strength: In some cases, MO can lead to decreased muscle strength in the affected area.
  • Numbness or tingling: Numbness or tingling in the affected area may occur due to pressure on nerves.

These symptoms often worsen with activity. Diagnosis usually involves physical examination, medical history evaluation, and imaging tests like X-rays or MRI to confirm the presence of bone tissue in the muscle. 

Myositis Ossificans Prevention Strategies in Athletes:

  • Proper Training and Technique: Emphasizing correct form and technique in training can reduce the risk of muscle injuries that may lead to myositis ossificans.
  • Adequate Protective Gear: Using appropriate protective equipment during sports activities can help prevent traumatic muscle injuries.
  • Balanced Workout Regimens: Incorporating rest days and varying workout routines can prevent overuse injuries.
  • Immediate Injury Management: Applying the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method immediately after a muscle injury can reduce the risk of myositis ossificans development.
  • Avoidance of repetitive contusionsAthletes should avoid activities that put them at risk of repetitive contusions, such as excessive tackling or checking.

Myositis Ossificans Management Approaches:

  • Rest and Recovery: It’s crucial for athletes to give adequate time for the injured muscle to heal, avoiding activities that exacerbate the condition.
  • IceIce can be applied to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling.
  • CompressionCompression can be applied to the affected area using an elastic bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Physical Therapy: Once the acute phase has passed, physical therapy can be beneficial. Therapies may include gentle stretching, strength exercises, and other modalities to improve flexibility and reduce discomfort.
  • Medications: In some cases, medications like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can be used to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Surgical Intervention: In severe cases, where the bone growth interferes with muscle function and does not respond to conservative treatment, surgical removal may be considered.

Long-Term Outlook and Returning to Sports:

The long-term outlook for athletes with myositis ossificans is generally positive, especially with early detection and appropriate management. Athletes can usually return to their sports, although the timeline varies based on the severity of the condition and the individual’s response to treatment.


Myositis ossificans, while a potentially serious condition, can be effectively managed with proper preventive measures and timely treatment. Athletes, with the support of their healthcare team, can often return to their previous level of sporting activity. Awareness and education about this condition are key in the sports community to ensure the health and safety of athletes.

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 14, 2023

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