Muscle Contusion or CORK - What to Do About Severe Bruising

Monday, November 30, 2015

Muscle contusion injuries are very common in team sports like soccer and rugby and thigh bruising is so common it’s just called CORK.

Severe muscle contusions 

Most muscle contusions are minor and heal quickly without leaving you on the side-bench, but you should be alert to the dangers of severe contusions.  These cause deep-tissue damage and can lead to complications that will stop you playing any sport for several months.

Consult a physiotherapist

The difficulty is that muscle contusions are sometimes mistaken for muscle tears and the wrong type of first-aid can significantly increase the injury.  There are two types of haematoma associated with this type of injury:

  • A direct haematoma is caused by a direct blow with localised muscle damage/bleeding.  
  • An indirect haematoma is caused by a muscle tear usually from fast running and abrupt stopping

Only a physiotherapist can correctly diagnose the injury by feeling the affected muscle and you should definitely see a physiotherapist as soon as possible.  Remember that heat, alcohol and massage increase bleeding after a contusion and must be avoided. 

Complications

1)  Compartment syndrome

This can show up several hours after the contusion injury and it needs immediate medical attention.  Compartment syndrome is a build-up of pressure from the bleeding and swelling that can close off essential blood vessels and nerves starving the muscle group of blood and nutrients.

Without the nutrients provided by a constant blood flow, muscles can quickly develop a serious condition.  In some cases, immediate surgery is needed to release the pressure and prevent permanent blood vessel and nerve damage.

2)  Myositis ossificans

This happens when the bruised muscle grows bone cells instead of new muscle cells. The symptoms are mild to severe pain that doesn’t go away and swelling.  The normal time for a contusion to heal is 1 – 2 weeks, so if your contusion is still inflamed and painful after 2 weeks, go and back to your physio or doctor.

Physiotherapy Treatment 

Physiotherapy can do a lot to reduce bleeding and treat severe muscle contusions:

  • Firstly minimising the bleeding and swelling 
  • Carefully-controlled soft tissue massage is a safe way to break down blood clots
  • Stretching exercises to restore your range of motion and strengthening for return to sport

If you get physio treatment, a severe muscle contusion can be healed in about 21 days and your physio will help you regain your full strength and mobility for a rapid return to sport.  So the next time you have a bad muscle contusion, make the intelligent choice and consult a physio.

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Engadine Physio
36 Station St, Engadine NSW 2233
9520-6067
Engadine@physioinq.com.au