A corked muscle happens as a result of direct trauma to the muscle by an object or impact from a person. A corked muscle can occur in any area, but it most commonly happens in the thigh region. In most cases, a cork occurs due to the collision of two players during sport. This causes localised muscle and blood vessel damage and bleeding.
Corked muscle symptoms
The severity of muscle damage is related to the force of impact, area of impact and tension of the muscle at the time of impact. You may experience swelling, tenderness and pain when stretching and moving. There may be bruising present as well. Experiencing a contusion without bruising can be more painful, as that means that blood is trapped within the tissue layers, preventing it from reaching the surface and appearing as a bruise.
Treatment for corked muscle
It is best practice to get the corked muscle assessed by an experienced physiotherapist to determine the severity of damage and if there are other concerns such as haematomas (trapped blood). Once your physiotherapist assesses the damage they will advise you which rehab exercises to start with. In general, after the muscle is corked, you should start stretching immediately and apply ice. You may use the PEACE principle to minimise swelling and reduce further bleeding.
Protect from further damage (generally rest and rehab are advised)
Compress with a compression bandage
Educated on injury process, recovery time and rehab
In most cases, a corked muscle is a minor injury and won’t negatively impact your ability to play sports in future. However, significant injuries are associated with internal bleeding, which needs to be treated with care. If you have experienced a corked muscle, make sure you avoid alcohol consumption, applying heat, vigorous massage and continuing to play while injured. Doing any of these can increase the bleeding and worsen the severity of the injury. This will increase your recovery time and delay your return to sports.
Physiotherapy is an effective treatment for a corked muscle. Physiotherapy treatment involves swelling management, early stretching, strengthening, soft tissue therapy (later in the injury phase), dry needling and education on what you can and can’t do while injured.