Health Information

Dead Leg

No, it’s not when you’ve sat on your leg at a funny angle. The technical name for dead leg is quadriceps contusion. “Dead Leg” or “Cork Thigh’, are common in rugby, soccer and hockey when you are hit by a ball or somebody’s leg. The heavy impact squeezes the muscle against the bone beneath the muscle, causing deep rupture to the muscle tissue and bleeding. This is followed by inflammation. The severity of a quadriceps contusion depends on a variety of actors, including the amount of force at impact, the degree of muscular relaxation (which determines the depth of the injury) and any previous impacts or damage at the same site.


Contusions are classified according to severity: mild, moderate or severe.

Mild: It hurts but you can still play, you may still have some tenderness and weakness for a couple of weeks. There may be some bruising but you can bend the knee more than 90º.

Moderate: It hurts a lot. You cannot carry on playing. You can bend the knee a bit but not more than 90º. You cannot put your full weight on the leg. It will stiffen up as you cool down and may get more swollen. You will be out of sports for at least 3-4 weeks.

Severe: It hurts a helluva lot! You cannot continue to play. There is rapid bruising and swelling. You won’t be able to stand on the leg. There may be a deep intramuscular mass (big lump in the muscle) and you can only bend the knee a little (less than 45º). You are going to be out of action for at least 6 weeks.

  deadlegarticle.jpgContusion of upper anterior