Fact Checked

What is a Knee Contusion?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

A knee contusion is an injury that results in bruising, swelling, and tenderness on or below the kneecap. Most contusions are relatively minor surface injuries, simply causing skin bruises due to broken blood vessels very near the surface of the knee. Symptoms of a mild contusion tend to go away within a week or two with simple home care. Intense pain and bruising may be indicative of a more severe muscle or bone contusion that should be evaluated by a physician. Depending on the seriousness of an injury, a person may have difficulty using his or her leg for several weeks or months.

Skin bruises occur when tiny blood vessels called capillaries are broken and allow blood to escape into cutaneous tissue. A mild knee contusion can result from falling, bumping into a door or table, or getting hit with a sports ball. A person may notice slight swelling and tenderness, but the injury does not normally impede the ability to use the leg. A bruise typically appears as dark blue or purple spot within about a day of the initial injury. The knee starts feeling better and the bruise becomes lighter over the course of several days.

Minor knee contusions.
Minor knee contusions.

A person can lessen the pain and healing time of a mild knee contusion by resting, icing, and elevating the joint. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken to further reduce swelling and pain. Intense physical activity should be avoided for a couple of weeks following an injury to give the knee sufficient time to recover. When bruising subsides and the joint feels better, a person can engage in light stretching exercises to regain flexibility.

An ice pack, which can help with a knee contusion.
An ice pack, which can help with a knee contusion.

A contusion that results in debilitating pain and swelling is generally considered a medical emergency. Deep contusions are most common in contact sports, car accidents, and hard impacts from falls. A person who suffers a serious knee injury should try to keep the leg immobilized until medical treatment is available. In the emergency room or doctor's office, a physician can take x-rays and conduct a physical examination to determine the extent of the injury.

Knee injuries are common in sports.
Knee injuries are common in sports.

Most contusions that affect bone, muscle, cartilage, or ligament tissue in the knee are treated in much the same way as skin bruises, though full recoveries can take several months. A doctor may prescribe high-strength pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs to take while resting and icing the leg. Some patients, especially athletes, enter physical therapy at some point in their recovery to rebuild strength and flexibility. Surgery may be necessary if a knee contusion is accompanied by a bone break or ligament tear.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Last week, during my pole dancing class, my instructor decided to push me to my limit (it's real hard core). I was learning how to do some really cool spins, but landed on my knees as well as my instructor. Shes OK. Now my knees look like a rainbow. Any thoughts? Please help!


I have sore knees but I have not had them before. This happened after I played steal the bacon with the year 7 and 8 students.


I just got mine today. I flew like 10 feet in the air, and landed on my elbow and knee. I got it from a scooter accident. I can't even move it without almost falling over. I also have to walk to school (a one mile walk) and I'm in middle school, so I do tons of sitting then standing. I may have to stay home tomorrow.


I had an accident when my left knee collided with my friend's knee during a basketball game. I felt pain in my kneecap, but no swelling happened and I thought it was my ACL. I immediately put ice on the affected area, and after that I could stand up normally with manageable pain in my left kneecap, but after I got home, my knee suddenly wiggled. I felt that my knee gave way. After a month, I felt my knee was O.K., but when I tried to pivot my left knee it felt like my knee locked and there was pain.

Is this serious? Will I need an operation for the problem?


Three months ago, I flew out of a golf cart because of the G-forces, (Fast golf cart, I know) and I ended up landing onto the road which was paved and I landed on my left knee, then my elbow.

My elbow healed fine with just a road rash scar, but my left knee, I'm not so sure about. It still hurts if I poke it in certain areas and if I sit with it bent for some time, it will not straighten out and it will hurt a lot. I also have noticed if I rub it, it will go numb and will be hard for me to move.

I'm pretty sure I should have gone into the doctor months ago, but does anyone think it is broken? I really don't want to go in if its nothing serious.


I have a knee contusion. What do I do, because I am a high schooler and I do a lot of walking.


You totally got this one right wisegeek -- I had a really bad fall a few years ago, and ended up with a wicked bone contusion in my knee. It was one of those things where you could just immediately tell that something was really wrong, you know?

My knee was swollen up to grapefruit proportions, and turned completely black from the bottom of my thigh through into my calf muscle. And of course I couldn't move it at all, at least not without excruciating pain.

So yeah, if you do think that you have anything like a bone contusion or even just a knee sprain, then seriously, get it checked out. I'm still doing knee rehabilitation exercises two years later, so it's really not something you want to fool around with.


@closerfan12 -- Hi -- sorry to hear that you've been having problems with your knee. Although it is really impossible to diagnose someone over the internet, from what you're telling me, it sounds like you could have done some damage.

I would advise you to go to a doctor since you are experiencing continuous knee pain and swelling, because the knee is really something that you don't want to take risks with.

Although I rather doubt that you have a knee cartilage injury from the type of fall you had, it is possible that you have a knee sprain or contusion.

All in all, I would say if you don't see a dramatic -- as in, back to 100 percent -- change in the next day or so, then definitely go to the doctor to see what's going on.

If you do have a serious injury, it's important to start your bone contusion / knee contusion treatment as soon as possible to prevent any further injury.

Best of luck.


Could you give me some more information about this topic? I have had some pretty bad pain in my knee recently after a fall (it was a pretty spectacular tumble down some stairs), and although I expected some knee swelling and pain, it seems like the swelling hasn't gone down.

I have looked at a few pictures of a knee model online to try and see what I could have messed up, and when I typed my symptoms in to WebMD it showed that I could have a knee sprain or a knee cartilage injury, but after reading this I was thinking that it could be a contusion.

Do you have any idea what could be going on? My knee is still quite swollen, and slightly warm to the touch, but not hot. Do you think I should got to the doctor, or should I just keep icing it like I have been doing?

Does anybody have any advice?

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Minor knee contusions.
      By: Kondor83
      Minor knee contusions.
    • An ice pack, which can help with a knee contusion.
      By: Marc Dietrich
      An ice pack, which can help with a knee contusion.
    • Knee injuries are common in sports.
      By: Stephen Coburn
      Knee injuries are common in sports.
    • Many athletes that suffer knee contusions will undergo physical therapy to rebuild strength and flexibility.
      By: lunamarina
      Many athletes that suffer knee contusions will undergo physical therapy to rebuild strength and flexibility.
    • Knee contusions cause bruising, swelling, and tenderness.
      By: Dirima
      Knee contusions cause bruising, swelling, and tenderness.
    • A knee contusion that causes debilitating pain may require a trip to the emergency room.
      By: Stephen Finn
      A knee contusion that causes debilitating pain may require a trip to the emergency room.