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Is a Contusion a Bad Thing?

Earlier this month, running back Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons was injured in a game after having just returned to the field from a previous injury. As CBS Sports put it, “Freeman has swapped a right knee bruise with a foot contusion.”

Wait, what? How can you swap a bruise for a contusion? Well, as Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center will tell you, a contusion is the same thing as a bruise. The terms are interchangeable, with bruise being the word we’ve heard since we first fell down as a child, and contusion being the medical term for the same thing.

A matter of depth

A contusion usually isn’t a big deal – but it really depends on how deep it hits.

  • Contusions can be shallow, affecting only the skin. When you’re on the receiving end of a punch or a falling object, blood vessels beneath your skin get broken and blood pools around the injured area. That’s why you watch your skin turn colors – black, blue, purple. Pooling blood may even form a visible lump.
  • If the blow to your foot is hard enough, it can cause a deep contusion, crushing tissue fibers in tendons, ligaments, muscles, or even nerves and causing pain and weakness.
  • The deepest kind of contusion – the kind that keeps athletes like Devonta Freeman off the field for weeks at a time – is a bone bruise. When you bruise a bone, it’s every bit as painful as a fracture. In fact, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a bruised bone and a broken one. For this reason, contact our podiatry office when you have a foot injury that causes bruising, swelling or pain for more than a day or two.

If it seems worse than a common bruise, it probably is. Treatment for a contusion is RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. But a bone contusion may require more. Eliminate any doubt by calling our office in Centreville, VA at (703) 996-3000 for an appointment with Dr. Wilhelm.

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