How Long Does It Take for a Corked Thigh to Heal?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

If you’ve played a lot of contact sports like Rugby League, Rugby Union , Soccer or AFL, you might have experienced what’s known as a corked thigh injury.

Being struck in the thigh by someone else’s knee during a soccer game or by a hard object moving at a high speed like in a game of tennis, it can cause muscular bruising and bleeding -- not to mention, a whole lot of pain.  

So, if you’ve been hit in the thigh and can’t seem to walk or stand, don’t worry -- you’ll very likely recover. Here, we’re going over what a corked thigh actually is, how it’s treated, and how long it’ll take for a full recovery.

What is a corked thigh?

A corked thigh is a common injury in contact sports caused by a direct hit to the thigh muscle. Also known as a dead leg or a charley horse, a corked thigh is technically a hematoma or contusion.

A hematoma occurs when your muscle gets bruised causing internal bleeding. It can be incredibly painful as your thigh starts to swell and inflame with symptoms such as:

  • Inability to walk, run, or climb stairs
  • Sitting and lying down can become uncomfortable
  • Inability to bend the knee or hinge at the hips
  • Swelling and tightness in the thigh muscle
  • Bruising
  • Mild to severe pain

How Long Does It Take for a Corked Thigh to Heal?

Risk Factors Associated with a Corked Thigh

The most common cause of a corked thigh is a direct hit to the quadriceps (thigh) muscle. However, there are other risk factors that might cause a corked thigh including:

  • Playing contact sports such as Rugby Union, Rugby League, AFL, and Soccer
  • Engaging in other sports that require quick starts or changes in direction like running track
  • Poor warm-up and cool-down habits
  • Poor off-season, pre-season, and mid-season cross-training habits
  • Poor muscle conditioning
  • A playing position that puts one at risk for more direct contact or tackles
  • Level of competitiveness
  • Use of protective equipment
  • Years of playing experience
  • Injury history
  • Medical history such as a bleeding condition
  • Age
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Smoking history
  • Obesity

These risk factors are all important to take into consideration to help protect yourself from a corked thigh injury.

Types of Corked Thigh

There are two types of corked thigh injuries: an intermuscular contusion and an intramuscular contusion.

An intermuscular contusion refers to bruising between the muscles. An intramuscular contusion refers to bruising within the muscle.

Intermuscular contusions will often present itself with bruising and mild pain but often has a faster recovery time.

Intramuscular contusions, on the other hand, cause much more severe pain, bruising may not be visible, and you’ll lose a lot of power and strength in the thigh requiring several weeks for a full recovery.

There are also three grades of corked thighs.

A grade one corked thigh can usually be resolved on its own. In some cases, for example with a rugby player, you might still be able to get back in the game after a grade one corked thigh after a bit of compression and a quick break. The pain of a grade one corked thigh is mild and you might not experience any bruising.

A grade two or three corked thighs have more bruising of the muscle and the bruising may actually continue into the bone causing more complications. You’ll experience severe pain and find it extremely debilitating with the inability to bend the knee, walk, sit, or climb stairs.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Corked Thigh?

Going back to the different types of corked thighs you might have, knowing which one you’re experiencing can give you a better idea of how long the recovery will take.

First, you’ll want to figure out whether you have an intermuscular or intramuscular contusion. If you see bruising, you likely have an intermuscular contusion which means your recovery time is likely to be less.

However, if you’re still experiencing swelling after two to three days, you probably have an intramuscular contusion, which will have a longer recovery time.

Here are the common recovery times for each grade of a corked thigh:

  • Grade 1 Corked Thigh: Up to three weeks
  • Grade 2 Corked Thigh: Up to six weeks
  • Grade 3 Corked Thigh: Three to twelve weeks

If you’re worried that your corked thigh might be worse than you initially expected, be sure to make an appointment with a physiotherapist who can properly assess the injury and work with you on a personalised recovery plan.

How to Recover from a Corked Thigh

The best treatment for a corked thigh happens in two phases: the protection phase and the restoration phase.

Protection Phase

In the protection phase of your corked thigh treatment, you’ll want to treat your corked thigh similarly to how you’d treat a typical muscle strain. That means your main goal will be to reduce pain and control the inflammation.

  • Keep your thigh compressed and elevated.
  • Use ice to the area every one to two hours for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • You might consider taking some anti-inflammatory or pain-relief medication.
  • Avoid alcohol as it can increase blood flow to the area and cause issues.

Do not stretch or massage your corked thigh as doing so can make things worse. It’s super important that you protect the thigh at this stage to speed up your recovery time.

Restoration Phase

In the restoration phase, you’ll work with your physiotherapist to restore your range of motion in the joints surrounding your thigh -- the hip joint above and the knee joint below.

You’ll also take time to work on strengthening the muscles of your lower limb including working on the quad, hamstrings, glutes, and calves through exercises like running, jumping, speed and agility challenges, balance exercises, and drills for changing direction.

Working with a physiotherapist can also help you get back into your sport safely by learning how to take a hit properly and steps you can take to avoid another corked thigh in the future.

Dealing with a corked thigh injury? Reach out to one of our expert physiotherapist who can help you through the recovery process. We can even come to you using our amazing mobile physio services OR clinic services. Our Physio Inq team will get you back in the game in no time!

This article was originally written by Jonathan Moody from Physio Inq

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