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By Meggie Morley, DPT Student

The term “bone bruise” can give the impression that it is not a very serious injury, when in reality a bone bruise is one step below a fracture of the bone. FullSizeRender 10A bone bruise occurs when several trabeculae in the bone are broken, whereas a fracture occurs when all the trabeculae in one area have broken.  Trabecular bone is also known as spongey bone.

Bone Structure

A typical bone in the body is comprised of cortical bone, cancellous bone and bone marrow. Cortical bone accounts for roughly 80% of bone structure in the adult human skeleton. The outer layer of cortical bone is the periosteum and the inner layer of cortical bone is the endosteum. Cancellous bone is often referred to a trabecular bone. It is found at the end of long bones and contains a dense network of fibers and blood vessels.

Three Types of Bone Bruises

  1. Subperiosteal hematoma: A bruise that occurs due to an impact on the periosteum that leads to pooling of blood in the region
  2. Intraosseous Bruising: The bruise occurs in the bone marrow and is due to high impact stress on the bone.
  3. Subchondral Bruise: This bruise is bleeding between cartilage and bone such as in a joint.

Symptoms of Bone Bruises

  • Pain and tenderness in the region of injury
  • Swelling in the region of injury
  • Skin discoloration in the region of injury

Bone bruises often occur with joint injuries, such as ankle sprains and ACL tears, therefore a bone bruise can also coincide with stiffness and swelling in the joint.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A bone bruise can only be diagnosed with a MRI, but an X-ray may be used to rule out a fracture. The first line of treatment is to rest and limit activity on the limb. Walking with an assistive device such as crutches is recommended for as long as weight bearing is painful. Physical therapy is also a beneficial treatment in order to maintain full joint mobility and strength during the healing process. Bone bruises often take several months to heal, and possibly longer if the bruise is larger. A study by Boks et al found that the average healing time of a bone bruise was actually 42.1 weeks after a traumatic knee injury. 

  When Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a bone bruise during the 2015 playoffs Dr. David Chao explained it like this, “Think of the bones in the knee being covered by articular cartilage like the dirt of the football field has grass on top.  If an elephant stomps on the grass the dirt underneath can be damaged/compressed.  In order to allow the grass (articular cartilage) to rejuvenate and heal, you can’t keep playing football on it.  The “keep off the grass” sign allows for a chance to heal.”

Overall, it is important to allow for bone bruises to heal for as long as needed to ensure that the bone does suffer further damage.

FullSizeRender 9 Blog Post written by Meggie Morley, DPT Student at Columbia University. Meggie is currently in her final Clinical Rotation with me at Catz Physical Therapy Institute.

Sources

  1.  Janice Polandit, 5 Things You Need to Know About a Bone Bruise, 2011; http://www.livestrong.com/article/5521-need-bone-bruise/ Grades of recommendation F
  2. Jelić Đ, Mašulović D. Bone bruise of the knee associated with the lesions of anterior cruciate ligament and menisci on magnetic resonance imaging. Vojnosanitetski pregled. 2011;68(9):762-6.
  3. https://www.saintlukeshealthsystem.org/health-library/bone-bruise
  4. Boks SS, Vroegindeweij D, Koes BW, Bernsen RM, Hunink MM, Bierma-Zeinstra SM. MRI follow-up of posttraumatic bone bruises of the knee in general practice. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2007 Sep;189(3):556-62.
  5. Bone Photo Credit click here