Corked Thigh: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
A corked thigh, sometimes referred to as a “thigh contusion”, is a common sports injury that occurs when the thigh muscle is struck by a hard object. Depending on your chosen sport, this could mean having your thigh struck with a ball, buck, or even with an opponent’s body. Irrespective of the instrument, the outcome is the same – a dull aching sensation to the thigh muscle.
While a corked thigh is usually classified as a non-serious injury that is ‘part and parcel’ with the athletic experience, it can be painful and cause limited mobility for an extended period of time. In this article, we’ll take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for corked thigh injuries to help you better understand the injury and how you can get moving in the right direction sooner.
Corked Thigh Contusions Are Classified As:
Grade 1: Mild
Grade 1 contusions are often mild, and the athlete will generally be able to continue playing in the match if they have received this type of corked thigh. However, they will likely feel some soreness after the match, when cooling down, or the next day. Afterwards, the area may be tender to touch, sore to stretch, and feeling somewhat weaker. Generally, a grade 1 contusion can see athletes return to playing in roughly 2-3 weeks* to be on the safe side.
Grade 2: Moderate
Grade 2 thigh contusions can prevent the athlete from continuing the match, but they will also likely stiffen up with immediate rest. There may be some pain and the affected area will be tender to touch. An athlete with a grade 2 corked thigh will often present with a limp to prevent weight on the affected area, and range of motion will be diminished by up to 50%. Generally, a moderate corked thigh of this nature will see athletes returning to play in 4-6 weeks as a minimum*
Grade 3: Severe
A grade 3 contusion will present with rapid swelling and obvious bleeding – both of which may not be able to be controlled. The athlete will experience instant movement loss and difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg. The thigh and quadricep area will be very tender, uncomfortable, and swollen. The athlete will need to engage in rehab and recovery for up to 8 weeks* before getting back into play.
*The return to sport and activity for all grades of a corked thigh will vary from case to case. Getting back into sport will be significantly reduced with early injury management and physiotherapy.
Symptoms of Corked Thigh
A corked thigh can reveal itself in many ways. Injured athletes will experience one, or more of the below symptoms:
Pain – Ranging from a dull ache to a sharp pain, this is the clearest and often the most severe symptom of a corked thigh. The affected area is typically tender, and the pain becomes worse when pressure is applied
Swelling – If your thigh is swollen, this is a clear symptom of a corked thigh
Stiffness – The injured thigh may feel very tight and become difficult to move
Bruising – If the blood vessels are damaged, the area around the injury will often turn black and blue
Cramps – The affected muscle may begin to cramp or spasm
Numbness or tingling – As a result of nerve damage, the affected area may become numb or begin to tingle
Weakness – The injured leg may feel weaker than your other leg, causing you to limp while you walk
The symptoms of a corked thigh can range from mild to severe and usually appear within a few hours. Regardless of the severity, it is important to rest your body and seek advice on how to reduce the pain and swelling if the symptoms persist or worsen.
Diagnosis of Corked Thigh
The symptoms detailed above are good indicators that you are experiencing a corked thigh. However, if you are uncertain, it is always good to get the opinion of a medical professional to accurately diagnose your injury.
Seeking the help of a doctor or physiotherapist, your physician will first get to know your medical history, your sport of choice, and what may have caused your injury before diagnosing a corked thigh. They will then check the injured area for the above symptoms, particularly bruising, swelling and tenderness. This may include manual therapy, where your doctor or physio will apply light pressure to your thigh, to check how the affected muscles responds.
To confirm a diagnosis or to rule out any underlying bone or tissue damage, doctors might also perform a series of tests such as an X-Ray or MRI. Blood tests may also be used to identify any other signs of inflammation or potential infection. While these tests can be important in certain cases, ultimately a corked thigh is diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms, the physical examination carried out and the patient’s history of injury.
Treatment of Corked Thigh
Treatment options for a corked thigh depends on the severity and grade of the contusion, but in general a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is required to recover. In moderate to severe injuries, physiotherapy will be required to get the injured athlete back to full fitness.
You may have heard of the RICE recovery technique before, but just to be sure, let’s clarify your treatment options:
Rest - The first step in treating a corked thigh is rest. To allow the affected area to heal, if is vital to avoid exercise that will worsen the pain or make your injury worse.
Ice - To reduce swelling and pain in the affected area, ice should be applied several times a day, for 15-20 minutes at a time.
Compression - Compression bandages or garments are a great way to reduce swelling in the injured area. To get the necessary benefits, make sure it is nice and snug, but not too tight that you cut off circulation.
Elevation - Elevating the injured leg, preferably above the level of your heart, is another very affective way to reduce swelling.
Physiotherapy for a Corked Thigh
Visiting a physiotherapist will help you to further understand your injury, improve your strength and range of motion and inform the best ways to accelerate your recovery.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. In more severe circumstances, where the pain becomes intense doctors may prescribe stronger pain medication or recommend additional treatment options like electrical stimulation or even surgery.
However, this type of treatment is often not needed for a corked thigh. Generally, with proper treatment and care, most athletes will make a full recovery within a few weeks, mainly by applying the RICE principles outlined above.
Corked thigh injuries are very common, and will vary in severity. If you have experienced a corked thigh or thigh contusion, it’s important to seek the assistance of a physiotherapist as soon as possible. With the right support, techniques, and practices, you will significantly improve your recovery rate with a corked thigh.
If you’d like to learn more about how a physiotherapist can assist with a corked thigh or sporting injury, get in touch with the experts at Infinite Health. Sydney’s leading physiotherapists, our team of sports physios can provide effective, pain-relief and treatment for a corked thigh injury.