Contusions, or bruises, are almost as common in the thigh as in the lower leg. They’re the result of directblows, the kind of charley horse you get from being hit, and are the bane of contact sports such as wrestling,football, and even soccer, basketball, and baseball. They almost always occur in the quadriceps.

A contusion usually affects people in one of two ways: either it’s so devastating, hurts so badly, thatyou can’t do anything but lie there and suffer; or, more often, you take the blow, continue what you’re doingfor a while, and then pause for half a minute or so, during which time the muscle goes into spasm and ceasesworking very well. Then it’s obvious that it’s a serious injury. In a few hours the pain will be accompanied byswelling and soon after by black and blue splotches.

+ What to do about it + The pain, swelling, and discoloration are the result of ruptured blood vessels belowthe skin bleeding into the muscle, and massive amounts of blood can accumulate very quickly. With contu-sions in the lower leg, ice and compression together can slow down the bleeding and reduce swelling. In themeatier thigh, it’s harder to apply either effectively—there’s too much fat and muscle around the injury. Sodon’t neglect to ice contusions in the thigh, but don’t expect miracles. The best way to apply compression toa thigh injury is to put your hand over the point of the blow and lean on it for ten to fifteen minutes.

More effective still is stretching the injured muscle. If you’re injured in the quads, you can stretch themuscle by bending your knee. Stretching the muscle stretches the fascia surrounding it as well, tightening thefascia and turning it into a kind of internal tourniquet. You apply compression from within, inhibit bleeding, andget a head start on stretching the muscle, all by simply bending the knee and keeping it bent for the firsttwelve hours or so after the injury.

Then take it easy. In contrast to muscle tears and strains, with contusions you do not want to push to the pointof pain. Keep the muscle stretched and start moving in ways that are comfortable. And you might see adoctor as well. These can be painful injuries, and you don’t want to overdo and make the problem worse.

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