Muscle contusions, also known as bruises, are an extremely common injury among athletes in contact sports.
The quadriceps muscles that make up the thigh are particularly susceptible to bruises from falls or repeated blows from objects or other body parts. In most cases, these contusions are minor and don’t require medical treatment; however, deep tissue bruises can sideline an athlete for months and even lead to significant complications.
What Causes a Bruise:
Direct or repeated blows to the body can crush the connective tissue and muscle fibers beneath the skin. The damaged blood vessels then start to leak into the tissue.
This typically causes a bluish discoloration on the surface of the skin that gradually transitions to a greenish-yellow. You may experience pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion in the joints near the injury. The affected muscle may also feel stiff and weak.
The recommended treatment for bruises follows the rest, ice, compression, elevation formula:
- Rest the affected area to protect it from further injury.
- Apply ice to the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This numbs the pain, reduces inflammation, and narrows blood vessels to slow bleeding into the muscle tissues.
- Wrap the injured area using an ace or another type of compression bandage. Compression not only helps swelling and pain, it aids blood circulation in the affected area. A particularly useful, and possibly the best, form of compression is a thigh compression sleeve. These sleeves make getting compression on the injury easy and discreet. You can wear thigh compression sleeves under clothing. Here are some compression sleeves we highly recommend: Thigh Compression Sleeves
- If possible, try to elevate the injured area above the level of the heart. Mild to moderate bruises typically heal within a few weeks; however, deep bruises may take as long as six weeks to heal fully.
A regimen of gentle stretching and strengthening exercises can help alleviate stiffness and improve range of motion.
When to See a Doctor:
You should see a doctor as soon as possible anytime you experience bruising that causes significant pain, swelling, or obvious tissue damage. In rare cases, a deep thigh bruise can result in serious complications, including:
- Compartment Syndrome—Rapid swelling and pressure from built-up fluids in the tissue can compress blood vessels and disrupt the blood supply to the affected muscles, which can lead to tissue death. This is an emergency requiring immediate medical treatment. Early signs of compartment syndrome include tightness, numbness, and pale, shiny skin near the affected area.
- Myositis Ossificans—If you try to rehabilitate a severe contusion too quickly, you can cause bone to grow within the affected muscle instead of new muscle cells. These bony formations can pain and reduce flexibility. The best way to prevent complications from deep thigh bruises is to seek prompt treatment and follow your doctor’s directions regarding exercise and rehabilitation.