If you play, or have played, a lot of contact sports in your lifetime, chances are, you will have sustained a contusion (“cork”) at some stage of your sporting career. They’re big, swollen and painful, and leave you feeling a little bit worse for wear for the following days. You may have even had one stick around for a few weeks, to the point where it required external treatment. Here at Wellness Embodied, we want to empower our clients to take charge of their own recovery and wellbeing, all as part of making Cairns the most healthy and happy city in Australia.
So what are the Do’s and Don’t’s of managing a contusion?
Let’s start with the Don’t’s!
No alcohol consumption within the first 24 hours. Alcohol has highly inflammatory and dehydrative properties, and will leave you feeling much worse for wear the following day!
Heat application – this may increase the bleeding and swelling, which can contribute to elongated recovery if applied during the early phases.
High intensity and impact exercise – whilst the goal will be to return you to sport as soon as possible, in the first day, we only want to encourage range of motion exercise to keep the muscle loose. This allows the muscle the time it needs to heal properly, ready to go for next weeks game!
Anti-inflammatories – whilst we want to avoid excessive inflammation long-term, inflammation actually brings the healing chemicals your body requires to the site. So it is essential for recovery in those early phases!
What about the Do’s?
Apply ice – in the first 48 hours post-injury, apply ice to the site every 2 hours, for 15 minutes. It isn’t enough to prevent the inflammatory response, but it will help with the local pain relief you might need to help you feel better, and assist with stopping the inflammation from lingering. You can find our ice pack for purchase at our Scott St, Sheridan St, and Cooktown clinics!
Apply compression – this will support the injury to promote fast healing, and help you feel more comfortable, which will help get you moving in the long-run
Active movement – keep the injured site moving through a pain-free range of motion. A little bit of pain is ok, stop before it becomes really sore!
Kinesio tape for lymphatic drainage – see the picture below, and make sure you apply direction along the lines of the arrow. Taping in this manner assists with lymphatic drainage and clearance of the bruising
It’s been 48 hours, now what?
Now is the time to get that muscle stretching and start returning to normal exercise! You may need to lighten the load at the gym, or reduce your running speed initially on the field, but encourage some blood flow to start returning to the muscle! Static stretching is best to encourage that return of muscle flexibility.
Massage – don’t be afraid to get some gentle massage into the area to start assisting with the break down of some of that scar tissue. One of the ways you can do this is by utilising a massage gun to apply the correct pressure to the bruise. Don’t apply so much to the point of excruciating pain, but also don’t be afraid to get into it for 5 minutes at a time!
Return to strengthening exercises – if you’re a regular gym junkie, now is the time to start loading your legs up! Focus on slow body weight exercises to start with, such as squats and lunges to work on stretching out the muscle under tension
Return to training – once the pain has subsided, return to normal training, working within your pain threshold
Normally, a cork will heal within 1-2 weeks, and you will be back on the field with minimal limitations. In some cases, the injury may be severe enough that the injured site will become hard and start to ossify (turn to bone). If you find that your symptoms are not beginning to settle after 3 days, make sure you book in to see your physio!
If you want to read up on more of our information on how we treat our athletes in the clinic, click here!