The effect of an anabolic steroid (nandrolone decanoate, 20 mg/kg) and a corticosteroid (methylprednisolone acetate, 25 mg/kg) on healing muscle injured with a drop-mass technique in a reproducible muscle contusion injury model in the rat was studied. Healing was determined by measuring active contractile tension in each muscle and histologic analysis. At day 2, the corticosteroid group showed significant improvement in both twitch and tetanic strength relative to the controls. At day 7, this effect was reversed and the corticosteroid muscles were significantly weaker than the control muscles, but there was still no significant effect seen in the anabolic steroid group. At day 14, the corticosteroid muscles were totally degenerated, with disorganized muscle fiber architecture. The anabolic steroid muscles were significantly stronger in twitch, and a similar trend was seen in tetanus relative to control muscles. The results indicate that in an animal model corticosteroids may be beneficial in the short term, but they cause irreversible damage to healing muscle in the long term, including disordered fiber structure and a marked diminution in force-generating capacity. Anabolic steroids may aid in the healing of muscle contusion injury to speed the recovery of force-generating capacity. Although anabolic steroids are considered renegade drugs, they may have an ethical clinical application to aid healing in severe muscle contusion injury, and their use in the treatment of muscle injuries warrants further research.