A thigh contusion is an injury to the soft tissues and muscles in your upper leg. They often develop when you experience a direct hit to your thigh. You’re more likely to experience this injury if you participate in contact or extreme sports, like rugby, football, snowboarding or skateboarding. Many thigh contusions heal with at-home treatment.
The word “contusion” is another word for bruise. A thigh contusion is an injury to the muscle and tissue on the upper part of your leg. These injuries can range from mild to severe, with most contusions healing quickly with at-home treatment.
A thigh contusion usually develops when you sustain a direct hit to your thigh. You’re more likely to get a bruise if you play high-contact sports, like rugby or football, or practice kickboxing.
A thigh contusion is a bruise or pooling of blood (hematoma) in your quadriceps muscle group. The quadriceps are four muscles responsible for extending your knee and flexing your hip. Any injury to these muscles can make moving your hip or knee difficult or painful.
People with thigh contusions may also have:
Many thigh injuries are mild, but if you sustain a direct, severe blow to your thigh, it may cause a serious injury. A thigh injury may be serious if you have:
Healthcare providers classify thigh contusions based on their severity. The three types of thigh contusions are:
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Thigh contusions are almost always painful. The other symptoms of a thigh contusion depend on the injury’s severity. You may experience:
A thigh contusion typically presents as pain located in the front of your leg. You may also feel like your thigh is throbbing.
A thigh contusion (bruise) is usually caused by a direct hit to your quadriceps muscle. Usually, this happens during contact or extreme sports, but any direct blow to your thigh could cause a contusion.
Thigh contusions are more common in people who play sports. You may get injured while playing contact sports, like football or lacrosse. Or you may develop a thigh contusion because of a fall while participating in activities such as snowboarding, skiing or skateboarding. Thigh contusions can also result from other traumatic injuries like car accidents.
Several factors can affect your risk of developing a thigh contusion, including your:
Other risk factors for a thigh contusion include:
Your healthcare provider will physically examine the injury to diagnose a thigh contusion. They may apply slight pressure to different parts of your thigh, test your knee’s range of motion or evaluate your quadriceps strength.
They may also use tests that view your soft tissues, like:
Most people heal from a thigh contusion with rest and over-the-counter medication. Depending on the injury severity, a provider may recommend:
You can lower your risk of a thigh contusion by:
Mild thigh contusions usually heal within five to seven days. Moderate to severe contusions may take two or more months to heal.
It’s important not to resume intense physical activity until your healthcare provider clears you to do so. You may start to feel better in fewer than two months, but the contusion may not have healed fully.
You may not need to see a healthcare provider for a mild thigh contusion. These injuries usually heal with at-home treatments. See a healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of a moderate to severe thigh contusion, including:
If you have a thigh contusion or think you could, you may also want to ask your healthcare provider:
Ask your healthcare provider when you can stretch your quadriceps after a thigh contusion. They’ll likely advise you to avoid stretching for several days or longer. Your provider may recommend strengthening and stretching exercises after the initial pain and swelling decrease.
No, you shouldn’t use heat on a thigh contusion. Heat can increase swelling and delay healing.
How quickly you can return to sports depends on how severe the contusion is. Your healthcare provider will likely clear you to return when you’re pain-free and can fully extend and flex your hip and knee. In mild cases, this may take about a week. More severe cases may take several months to heal.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Playing sports can be a great way to stay active and healthy, but it’s important to be aware of the possible injuries. Thigh contusions commonly affect people who play contact or extreme sports. They usually occur when you experience a direct, hard hit to your thigh. Some thigh contusions are mild and heal with at-home treatment. More severe injuries require a long healing period. Always warm up before playing sports and wear the proper protective equipment to lower your risk of injury.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/28/2023.
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