Muscle Contusion

Muscle contusions, in which the skin and underlying muscle is bruised, can occur in any contact sport, such as football, hockey or rugby, or during any activity that increases the chances of falling on a hard surface, such as figure skating. Usually this injury is minor and doesn’t even require taking a break from training. Sometimes, however, a particularly serious contusion can cause long-lasting pain or other complications, including acute compartment syndrome and myositis ossificans.

In addition to the discoloration that is the signature of a bruise, a contusion can cause swelling at the injury site. A very severe contusion also should alert you to the possibility of damage to the underlying muscle or bone, and a contusion in the abdominal area could potentially cause damage to internal organs.

For these reasons, you should consult a sports medicine specialist if you have symptoms of a contusion. He or she will perform a physical examination to identify exactly where the bruise is located, and may also use a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonant imaging (MRI) to make a diagnosis and rule out any other injuries.

To speed recovery, rest, icing, compression and elevation may be enough for relatively minor contusions, and your specialist may recommend you take an NSAID or other painkiller, such as Advil. Don’t massage the injured area.

Within a few days, swelling should go down, but you shouldn’t resume training until your specialist says you’re ready. Stretching, strengthening and range-of-motion exercises can all help you heal and regain your strength and flexibility.

Taking these precautions and treating your contusion correctly may knock you out of the game for a few weeks, but it can help you avoid more serious and potentially dangerous conditions.

Bruised Heel Injury

Pounding the pavement (or a similarly hard surface) is often a sizable part of an athlete’s training, and as a result, the heels of the feet take plenty of abuse, bearing the weight of the entire body. Unfortunately, the heel is protected only by a small pad of fat, and repetitively landing on the heels can cause this pad to ride up on the side of the heel bone, leaving it unprotected.

Not surprisingly, this causes pain in the heel. You might also notice bruising or dark spots on the bottom of your heel; those are due to capillaries that have ruptured because they are no longer protected by the fat pad that is normally on the underside of your heel.

Athletes most at risk of a bruised heel are those who put repeated strain on their heels, such as from high-impact activities like martial arts, basketball, football and running. A bruised heel likely will heal on its own; you should rest until your heel no longer feels painful. Also, if you’ve run more than about 400 miles in your running or athletic shoes, replace them to make sure your heels are getting the cushioning you need. If your shoes aren’t old enough to warrant replacement, add heel cushions to your shoes to pad your heels.

If the pain doesn’t dissipate after a few days, or if you think your heel pain might be due to another condition, such as plantar fasciitis, see a doctor. He or she can diagnose the cause of your heel pain and help you get back on your feet as soon as possible.