‘Dead leg’ or more technically referred to as quadriceps contusions result following an impact injury to the thigh musculature which causes the muscle to compress against the thigh bone.
Directly following this type of injury an individual will stereotypically experience varying levels of discomfort and reduced range of movement, the extent of which will be dependent upon the velocity of impact at the time of injury. It can cause varying degrees of damage to the muscle normally resulting in a haematoma (bleeding) with swelling to the injured region which is tender to touch.
Contusions are most commonly associated with contact sports such as rugby or sports such as cricket where being struck by a hard object or ball might cause a direct impact injury.
Seeking advice from a musculoskeletal specialist is recommended. At Pure Physiotherapy, our clinicians complete a thorough assessment which facilitates in making an accurate working diagnosis and the subsequent development of an individualised condition specific rehabilitation protocol.
Following assessment, if a quadriceps contusion has been found to be the source of pain your clinician will inform you of the suspected grade of your injury. Grading refers to the level of injury and contributes to a clinician’s ability in developing appropriate treatment strategies and will be something your Physiotherapy can provide more information on.
It is important to highlight that following a severe contusion some individuals experience calcification where small amounts of bone form within the haematoma of the affected muscle resulting in a condition known as Myositis Ossificans.
Symptoms are similar to that of what has already been described but might be heightened, individuals might also be able to feel a hard lump within the muscle. Stereotypically, after approximately 6 weeks bone begins to break down and is reabsorbed by the body. However, in severe cases recovery can take up to 12 months. Again, our clinicians at Pure are well placed to asses and treat this condition.
Immediately following this type of injury it is recommended that individuals follow a basic protocol that encourages healing and improved function. The protocol P.E.A.C.E & L.O.V.E (seen below – taken from the British Journal of Sports Medicine and produced by The Running Physio Tom Groom.).
Gentle, gradual, pain free stretching of the muscle will assist in restoring full range of motion in mild muscle contusion injuries. Moderate to severe contusions may require a period of rest. For any spectrum of quadriceps contusion injuries our clinicians at Pure Physiotherapy are well placed to provided an individualised condition specific assessment and treatment.
To finish with, and According to Sports Medicine Australia, return to normal activities of daily living, inclusive of sport may be significantly improved with appropriate early assessment and injury management practices.
Sports Medicine Australia (2020). Quadriceps Contusion (Cork Thigh). Available: https://sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/quadriceps-contusion-cork-thigh/. [Accessed 21.4.20].