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.