A contusion is the medical term for bruise, where a damaged blood vessel or capillary leaks blood into the area surrounding an injury.

If you have an injury to your knee that damages the muscle or skin tissue, it’s usually referred to as a soft tissue contusion.

A bone contusion, or bone bruise, to your knee is more severe, but it features many of the same symptoms as a soft tissue contusion. A bone bruise occurs as a result of an injury to the surface of the bone beneath the soft tissue.

A knee contusion is a fairly common occurrence. It’s also called a patellar contusion. Patella is the medical term for kneecap.

Symptoms, treatment, and recovery depend on the severity of the injury.

Knee contusions are the result of heavy impact to the knee, usually from a blow or fall that damages the soft tissues (such as the blood vessels) or bone.

Following impact, blood spills into the tendons, tissue, and muscles in your knee. A knee contusion can also be accompanied by scrapes and skin tears.

Symptoms of a soft tissue knee contusion include:

  • formation of a small bump
  • skin turning red, blue, or black
  • pain when pressure is applied

If you have a bone contusion to your knee, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • pain in your knee when extending your leg
  • swelling, stiffness, or tenderness
  • pain that’s more severe than a normal bruise and longer in duration

If swelling doesn’t reduce or worsens, it may be a sign of a more severe bone bruise. Your doctor may test to determine if you also have a fracture or break in your knee.

Knee contusions are treated differently based on their severity. The most common treatment method for knee contusions is the RICE protocol. It stands for:

  • Rest. Following an injury, minimize use of the affected area as much as possible.
  • Ice. A cold compress can reduce the swelling. Your doctor may recommend icing your knee for 15 to 20 minutes several times per day. To prevent ice burn or frostbite, use a cloth to prevent your skin from coming into direct contact with the ice.
  • Compress. To further reduce swelling, compress your knee with a wrap or elastic bandage. Do not wrap it too tightly, as it may inhibit circulation.
  • Elevate. Elevating your knee above your heart can drain excess blood from the affected area. It may also reduce pain and throbbing.

For minor knee contusions, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil).

If you have a severe bone bruise on your knee, your doctor may recommend wearing a brace to keep the affected area still during healing.

Recovery time depends on the extent of the injury. A minor knee contusion can heal in as little as a few days. A bone bruise may take several weeks or months to heal before you can return to normal activities.

If you experience trauma to your knee that results in pain, swelling, and skin discoloration, you may have a knee contusion. This injury typically heals on its own and doesn’t require surgery.

If symptoms persist or worsen, visit your doctor. They can determine if the injury is a fracture or break and develop an appropriate treatment plan.