A knee contusion or bruised knee occurs due to an impact on the knee. This can be due to a fall directly onto the knee or something hitting the knee, such as a ball or club. A contusion is a medical term for a bruise. Treatment depends on how bad the injury is.
Symptoms of a bruised knee
Symptoms of a bruised knee include instant pain at the time of injury with bruising which may develop over the following day. The area will be tender to touch and there may be some swelling. The bruising will change colour and start to fade after a few days.
Knee contusion explained
Whilst most bruised knees are not serious, a very hard impact may result in intense pain and difficulty moving the leg. If this is the case, then medical attention should be sought as soon as possible to rule out other injuries such as a fractured patella.
Whilst bruising at the knee usually occurs following an impact injury, it may also occur following any kind of soft tissue damage, such as a sprain of a knee ligament or a strain to a surrounding muscle, usually the hamstrings.
Bruising occurs due to damage to some of the smaller blood vessels within the injured tissue. The blood leaks into the surrounding tissues, resulting in a black or blue appearance under the skin. Bruising usually develops within 24 hours of an injury. This will then slowly fade, appearing yellow or green as the blood dissipates.
Treatment of knee contusions
A knee contusion that is considered mild or moderate should be rested. Do not continue to train or play if the knee is painful or bruised as this may increase internal bleeding and swelling. Apply the PRICE principles of rest, ice, compression and elevation. A cold therapy compression wrap is ideal.
Ice can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour initially reducing the frequency as symptoms reduce. Monitor the bruising to ensure pain and the colour of the bruising decreases over the following days.
Read more on the PRICE principles.
A severe knee contusion may require medical attention. A doctor will assess the injury and possibly diagnose and more serious damage to the tissues and structures in the knee such as ligament or cartilage. They may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling. Ice should, of course, be applied as soon as possible and continued for at least the first 24 to 48 hours.
Generally, provided there are no other complications, a severe contusion is treated the same as a minor one, but the timescale for healing is much longer.
Stretching and mobility exercises for the quads, hamstrings, groin, and calf may be recommended if some movement is lost. Sports massage may be beneficial in the later stages, to prepare the muscles for sport and flush out any residual blood clots and other waste products.
It is important following a bruise on any muscle part, that hot packs, hot baths, and massage techniques are not used whilst there may still be new bleeding. This could lead to the development of Myositis Ossificans.