A contusion is the proper medical term for what we commonly refer to as a bruise. A bruise is where a damaged blood capillary or blood vessel leaks blood into the area that surrounds the injury. If there is an injury to your knee that has caused damage to the skin tissue or the muscle, then it is commonly referred to as a soft tissue contusion or a knee contusion. There is a lot of confusion about what exactly are knee contusions and how to treat them. We try to clear up some common misconceptions here and try to bring clarity to what exactly is a knee contusion. Read on to learn more about knee contusions.
What are Knee Contusions?
Simply put, a knee contusion is just a bruised knee. It happens due to an impact or injury to the knee. For example, it can be caused if a person falls directly onto their knee or if you hit your knee against something, or even if something hits you on the knee, such as a ball or a club. A contusion is the proper medical term for a bruise and treatment for a knee contusion depends on how bad the knee injury is.
When you have an injury to your knee that causes damage to the skin tissue or to the muscle, it is referred to as a soft tissue contusion or a knee contusion. It means that you have a bruised knee.
A bone bruise or a bone contusion to the knee is a more severe case, though it is likely to have many of the same symptoms as a soft tissue contusion. A bone bruise usually happens due to an injury to the bone surface, just underneath the soft tissue.
A knee contusion is a very common occurrence and sometimes it is also known as a patellar contusion since patella is the medical term for your kneecap.
The symptoms, treatment and the recovery process from a knee contusion depends on how severe the injury is.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of a Knee Contusion?
Knee contusions are usually caused as a result of some heavy impact to the knee. This usually happens from a fall or a blow that causes damage to the soft tissues in the knee, for example, the blood vessels, or to the bone itself.
After the impact has taken place, the blood starts to spill into the tissue, tendons, and the muscles of the knee. A knee contusion is usually also accompanied by skin tears or scrapes.
Symptoms of a knee contusion vary from person to person, but it definitely includes instant pain at the time of the injury. Bruising may develop the following day as well. The knee will remain tender to touch for some days and there will be swelling in the area as well. It is likely that the bruising will change color and eventually start to fade after a couple of days.
Some of the common symptoms of soft tissue knee contusion are as follows:
- The skin turns red, black, blue
- A small bump forms
- Pain is there when you apply pressure
If you have a bone contusion to the knee, you are likely to experience any of these symptoms:(1)
- Stiffness or tenderness
- Pain in the knee when extending the leg
- Pain that feels more severe than a normal bruise and also lasts longer in duration
If the swelling in and around your knees remains the same – meaning neither does it get better nor does it worsen, then this is a sign of a more serious bone bruise. In this case, you should ideally consult a doctor, who will then test to determine if there is a fracture or a break in the knee.
How to Treat a Knee Contusion?
The treatment for knee contusions varies depending on the severity of the bruise. The most commonly used treatment for knee contusions is the RICE protocol, which stands for:
- Rest: After an injury, you need to minimize the use of the affected part as much as possible and allow the area to rest.
- Ice: Use a cold compress to reduce the swelling. Doctors most commonly recommend icing the knee for about 20 to 30 minutes several times a day. In order to prevent frostbite or ice burn, always use a cloth to prevent the skin from touching the ice directly. You should avoid direct contact of the skin with the ice.
- Compress: Compress your knee with an elastic bandage or a wrap in order to further lower the swelling. However, remember not to wrap it too tightly, otherwise, it will inhibit the blood flow to that region, increasing your pain.
- Elevate: Keeping your knee elevated above the level of your heart will help drain out the excess blood from the injured area. This helps lower the throbbing and reduces the pain as well.
If you have suffered a minor knee contusion, then your doctor is likely to recommend using some anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (brand names: Motrin and Advil), in order to reduce the swelling and also get the pain under control. However, if you have suffered a severe bone bruise on the knee, then it is likely that your doctor will recommend that you wear a knee brace to keep the affected part still during the healing process.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Knee Contusion?
Again, the recovery time depends on the severity and extent of your injury. A minor knee contusion can take as little as a couple of days to heal, whereas a bone bruise(2) may take up to several weeks or even months to heal properly before you are able to resume your normal activities.
If you have experienced a bruise to your knee that is causing you pain and there are swelling and skin discoloration in the area, it is likely that you have a knee contusion.
This type of injury tends to heal on its own and usually does not require any surgery. If your symptoms persist or get worse, then you should consult a doctor. Your doctor will be able to determine if the injury is a simple bruise of if there is a fracture or bone break. They will then develop an ideal treatment plan for your knee contusion.
- Pedersen, D.R., El-Khoury, G.Y., Thedens, D.R., Saad-Eldine, M., Phisitkul, P. and Amendola, A., 2017. Bone contusion progression from traumatic knee injury: association of rate of contusion resolution with injury severity. Open access journal of sports medicine, 8, p.9.
- Bretlau, T., Tuxøe, J., Larsen, L., Jørgensen, U., Thomsen, H.S. and Lausten, G., 2002. Bone bruise in the acutely injured knee. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 10(2), pp.96-101.