What's a Foot Contusion and How is it Treated?

A foot contusion sounds so fancy and frightening, but it's really a fairly easy injury to treat. Now that we've cleared up that fact, I thought you all could use a better explanation of the specifics of this foot injury. 

What is a Foot Contusion A bump or impact injury to the ankle can result in a contusion injury.

A foot contusion is basically just a bruise on the foot or, in Harper's case, the ankle. A contusion develops when the small blood vessels in your foot or ankle break open due to the force of an impact, leaking blood into the surrounding areas. Contusions are often the result of being hit by a blunt object, like a ball or bat, so Harper isn't unusual in this situation. 

Symptoms of a foot contusion include: 

  • Black and blue coloring
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Swelling 

It is important to note that some of these symptoms may not show up until several hours after the initial injury. 

Treating a Contusion

Typically, contusions aren't considered serious injuries. Most bruises resolve in a week or so, although the skin discoloration can stick around for a lot longer than that. Still, when the contusion is situated at a joint, like the knee or ankle, the injury can be a bit more serious, as range of motion can be affected. 

Your doctor will determine whether or not you need to tape or bandage your foot contusion, and whether or not additional treatment is necessary. Most athletes will be able to speed recovery (and a return to training) by following this protocol: 

  • RICE 
    • Rest. As much as possible, the athlete should not use the injured area. In some cases, athletes may be given a brace or sling to keep an injured joint still, but this is not typical with a simple contusion. 
       
    • Ice. Put ice on the injured area 3–4 times a day, for 20 minutes at a time. Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a thin towel. Never put ice directly on your athlete’s  skin.
       
    • Compression. If instructed, wrap the area to keep swelling down. Use an elastic bandage. Do this only as instructed by a doctor.
       
    • Elevation. Have your athlete raise the injured body part above the level of his or her heart.
       
  • Medications to relieve inflammation and pain may be helpful when dealing with a particularly bad contusion. These will likely be NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications should only be used as directed by your athlete’s doctor, especially if he or she is not yet a teenager.

Coming Back from a Contusion

Here's the good news: assuming you have a surface-level contusion and not a bone bruise, recovering from a bruised  foot should be a fairly quick and easy process. With proper rest and treatment, most athlete's will be back to training within a week or two; few will experience any lasting consequences. So breathe easy, Phillies fans: I'm thinking Harper will be back to earning his exorbitant pay check very, very soon! 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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