A thigh contusion is an injury to the quadriceps at the front of the thigh, usually as a result of a blow in sport.
What Causes A Thigh Contusion?
A direct blow to the thigh muscles from a hard object or a person’s head or knee typically causes a thigh contusion, almost always during sporting activity. This injury can be very painful and functionally disabling; with severe cases potentially leading to acute compartment syndrome.
The quadriceps muscle is in front of the thigh bone along its length so is at risk of being squeezed against the bone in a direct blow. The rectus femoris, the muscle most at the front, is the most commonly injured.
What Happens in a Thigh Contusion?
A direct blow to the quadriceps muscle can cause rupture of connective tissue and muscle fibres, leading to a haematoma, a collection of blood within the muscle. This haematoma needs to be absorbed. Muscle cells regenerate and scar tissue is formed over a few weeks
Symptoms of a Thigh Contusion:
- Pain and numbness in the thigh
- Pain on weight bearing
- Inability to bend the knee due to pain
- Swelling of the thigh may occur
Treatment of a Thigh Contusion
Acute contusions are compression strapped and bandaged in a knee bend of 120 degree for 24 hours to limit the bleeding and swelling by putting pressure on the area. This speeds up the recovery process and reduces the risk of complications.
Physiotherapy involves providing crutches to avoid weight bearing until pain has reduced. Icing regularly during the day may be useful. Active quadriceps contractions, strengthening and stretches can be progressed as the pain allows. Weight bearing should be resumed as soon as possible, again as pain allows.
Around 9% of people with a thigh contusion develop myositis ossificans within the muscle. In this condition calcium gets laid down in the damaged area and causes pain and restriction of movement. Aggressive physiotherapy or surgery may be required to treat this condition.
- Mueller-Wohlfahrt H-W et al. Terminology and classification of muscle injuries in sport: The Munich consensus statement. Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091448. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2012/10/25/bjsports-2012-091448.full