Corked Thigh

Corked Thigh

Article by John Miller

What is a Corked Thigh?

(Also known as: “Dead Leg”, Quadriceps Contusions, “Charleys Horse”)

A corked thigh is very common in contact sports. In simple terms, your thigh muscles are usually “kneed” by an opponent during a tackle or similar impact. You crush the muscle tissue against the underlying bone. The effect of the muscles causes significant bruising and bleeding, both intramuscularly and also between the muscle and your femur (thigh bone).

Its damage can often be much more than you might expect for such a simple cause. Treat with respect.  If not treated correctly or if treated too aggressively, then myositis ossificans may result.

There are Two Types of Contusion

Intramuscular Contusion

An intramuscular contusion is a tearing of the muscle within the sheath that surrounds it. The initial bleeding may stop early (within hours) because of increased pressure within the tissue. However, the fluid is unable to escape the muscle sheath. The result is considerable loss of muscle function, power and pain which can take days or weeks to recover. You are not likely to see any bruising come out with this type – especially in the early stages. Physiotherapy and carefully performed massage therapy assist a speedy recovery. These interventions are essential to prevent functional morbidity related to the significant compression issues and myositis ossificans.

Intermuscular Contusion

An intermuscular contusion is a tearing of the muscle and part of the sheath surrounding it. Initial bleeding will take longer to stop if you fail to apply ice. However, recovery is often faster than intramuscular as the blood and fluids can flow away from the site of injury. You are more likely to see bruising come out with this one. These injuries respond very well to physiotherapy and massage.

What are the Symptoms of a Corked Thigh?

  • Pain after being whacked in the leg.
  • You might get swelling or bruising.
  • Restricted movement and reduced power.

What Can the Athlete Do?

Seek medical attention immediately. R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.) Use crutches. Commence physiotherapy as soon as possible.

Corked Thigh Treatment?

Seek professional help quickly if you can. Otherwise, implement a RICE regime until professionally assessed.

After two to three days check:

  • If the swelling has not gone, then you probably have an intramuscular injury.
  • If the bleeding has spread and caused bruising away from the site of the injury, then you probably have an intermuscular injury.
  • If you are more able to contract the muscle, you probably have an intermuscular injury.
  • Can you feel a deformation of the muscle or a gap? If so, please seek professional assessment.

The correct diagnosis is critical. If you try to exercise on a complete rupture or a bad intramuscular injury, you can inhibit healing, make things worse or cause permanent disability.

If you apply heat and massage in the early stages then you could get myositis ossificans (or bone-forming within the muscle), then you are in trouble. Myositis ossificans can result in months or years away from your sport.

Contusions are Graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on the Severity.

Grade 1

What does it feel like?

  • Tightness in the thigh.
  • Unable to walk properly.
  • Probably not much swelling.
  • Trying to straighten the knee against resistance probably won’t produce much pain.
  • Lying on front and bending the knee should allow you nearly a full range of motion.

Grade 2

What does it feel like?

  • Probably cannot walk properly.
  • Occasional sudden twinges of pain during activity.
  • Possible swelling.
  • Pressing it causes pain.
  • Straightening the knee against resistance causes pain.
  • Unable to fully bend the knee.

Grade 3

What does it feel like?

  • You will be unable to walk properly without the aid of crutches.
  • You will be in severe pain.
  • You will have significant swelling appear immediately.
  • A static contraction will be painful and might produce a bulge in the muscle.
  • Expect to be out of competition for 3 to twelve weeks.

Seek the advice of your physiotherapist or sports doctor as soon as possible.