What Can Cause a Bone Bruise?

Football players commonly experience bone bruises.
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
X-rays may be used to diagnose a bone bruise.
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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Damage to the bone that does not break it can cause a bone bruise. A few main ways to acquire a bruise in the bone include direct blows, falls and sports. Direct blows can be such things like a hit, kick or blunt object striking the body. Falls lead to a bone bruise, especially if the body hits a hard surface as a result. Sports, like football or hockey, can cause the condition through a variety of injuries, such as by a twisted ankle or knee.

There are several types of bruises, and in general, they are caused by the same types of trauma to the body. A bone bruise, though, is probably the most painful and severe type of bruise. It occurs often to bones in the ankles, hips or spine. Although a bruise in the bone can heal without treatment, it can last for months to years. The condition can cause pain and swelling to occur, in addition to being tender to touch or movement.


There is always the possibility that the condition will lead to more medical problems. For example, a bone bruise can lead to a bone fracture or a joint problem. Another example takes into consideration how sports can take a toll on the body. A football player is constantly putting his body at risk when he plays, and if he receives repeated blows to his shoulder, he can incur a bruise in the upper arm. This can then cause a condition commonly known as blocker’s bone.

To diagnose a bone bruise, several imaging methods are utilized, include a bone scan, computed tomography (CT) scan, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, in addition to an x-ray. Though imaging methods are also useful for other types of bruises, they are very good for checking for bruises in the bone. This is because even though a bone bruise can cause swelling, the condition itself might not be readily noticeable or attributed to the bone. A soft tissue bruise, for example, has readily noticeable physical characteristics such as discoloration of the skin.

Whatever the cause of a bone bruise, the severity of the damage determines the how long rehabilitation lasts. Rehabilitation includes exercise, pain medication and rest. The process of rehabilitation should be gradual, as too much stress too soon can cause more damage to the area and delay healing.


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