Home | About Us | FAQ | Newsletter | Contact Us
Shopping cart: 0 items | $0.00

Theraband Tubing

Quadriceps Strain

Injuries > Thigh > Quadriceps Strain

 

(Also known as Quadriceps Tear, Strained Quadriceps Muscle, Torn Quadriceps Muscle, Pulled Quadriceps)

 

What is a quadriceps strain?

A quadriceps strain is a condition that is frequently seen in kicking and running sports and is characterised by partial or complete tearing of the quadriceps muscle located at the front of the thigh (figure 1).

The large muscle group at the front of your thigh is called the quadriceps (figure 1). The quadriceps comprises of 4 muscle bellies which originate from the pelvis and thigh bone (femur) and attach to the shin bone (tibia) via the knee cap (patella). They are:

  • rectus femoris
  • vastus medialis
  • vastus lateralis
  • vastus intermedius

The quadriceps is responsible for straightening the knee during activity and controlling knee and hip movements and is particularly active during sprinting, jumping, hopping or kicking. Whenever the quadriceps muscle contracts or is put under stretch, tension is placed through the quadriceps muscle fibres. When this tension is excessive due to too much repetition or high force, the quadriceps muscle fibres may be torn. When one or more parts of the quadriceps muscle tear, the condition is known as a quadriceps strain. The rectus femoris is the most commonly affected muscle belly in a quadriceps strain.

Tears to the quadriceps can range from a small partial tear whereby there is minimal pain and minimal loss of function, to a complete rupture whereby there is a sudden episode of severe pain and significant disability. Quadriceps strains range from a Grade 1 to a Grade 3 tear and are classified as follows:

  • Grade 1 Quadriceps Tear: a small number of fibres are torn resulting in some pain, but allowing full function.
  • Grade 2 Quadriceps Tear: a significant number of fibres are torn with moderate loss of function.
  • Grade 3 Quadriceps Tear: all muscle fibres are ruptured resulting in major loss of function.

The majority of quadriceps strains are grade 2 tears.

Causes of a quadriceps strain

Quadriceps strains most commonly occur due to a sudden contraction of the quadriceps muscle (particularly when the muscle is on stretch e.g. kicking). They often occur during sprinting, jumping, hopping or kicking activities. This is particularly so during explosive acceleration (e.g. sprinting), when a footballer is kicking on the run or performs a long kick, or, following an inadequate warm-up. Quadriceps tears are commonly seen in running sports such as football and athletics.

Signs and symptoms of a quadriceps strain

Patients with a quadriceps strain usually feel a sudden sharp pain or pulling sensation in the quadriceps muscle at the time of injury. In minor cases, the patient may be able to continue activity only to have an increase in symptoms upon resting later (often that night or the next morning). In more severe cases, patients may experience severe pain, muscle spasm, weakness and an inability to continue the activity. Patients with a severe quadriceps tear may also limp or be unable to walk off the playing field.

Patients with this condition usually experience an increase in pain during activities which place tension on the quadriceps muscle. These activities may include squatting, going up and down stairs, running, jumping, hopping, kicking or performing a quadriceps stretch. It is also common for patients to experience pain or stiffness after these activities with rest, especially upon waking in the morning.

Patients with this condition may also experience swelling, pain on firmly touching the affected region of the quadriceps muscle and bruising in the front of the thigh. In severe cases, a visible deformity in the quadriceps muscle may also be detected.

Diagnosis of a quadriceps strain

A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose a quadriceps strain. Further investigations such as an MRI scan or Ultrasound may be required, in rare cases, to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment for a quadriceps strain

For detailed physiotherapy information on the treatment of this condition 'Become a Member'.

Already a Member?

 

View the complete article - Quadriceps Strain (Members Only).

Prognosis of a quadriceps strain

With appropriate management, patients with minor quadriceps strains can usually recover in one to three weeks. With larger tears, recovery may take four to eight weeks or longer depending on the severity of the injury. Complete ruptures of the quadriceps muscles are rare and are usually managed conservatively. In these cases, recovery may be significantly longer.

Contributing factors to the development of a quadriceps strain

There are several factors which can predispose patients to developing a quadriceps tear. These need to be assessed and corrected with direction from a physiotherapist. Some of these factors include:

  • muscle tightness (particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors)
  • muscle weaknesses (such as the quadriceps or gluteals)
  • inappropriate training
  • excessive training or activity
  • inadequate recovery periods from sport or activity
  • inadequate warm up
  • joint stiffness (especially the lower back, hip or knee)
  • poor biomechanics
  • inadequate rehabilitation following a previous quadriceps injury
  • decreased fitness
  • fatigue
  • poor core stability
  • muscle imbalances

Physiotherapy for a quadriceps strain

Physiotherapy for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process and ensure an optimal outcome. Treatment may comprise:

  • soft tissue massage
  • electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound)
  • joint mobilization
  • stretches
  • dry needling
  • anti-inflammatory advice
  • the use of crutches
  • ice or heat treatment
  • progressive exercises to improve strength, flexibility (particularly of the quadriceps), core stability and balance
  • education
  • biomechanical correction
  • activity modification advice
  • establishment of an appropriate return to activity or sport plan

Other intervention for a quadriceps strain

Despite appropriate physiotherapy management, some patients with a quadriceps strain do not improve adequately. When this occurs, your treating physiotherapist or doctor can advise on the best course of management. This may include investigations such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI, or referral to appropriate medical authorities who can advise on any intervention that may be appropriate to improve the condition.

Exercises for a quadriceps strain

The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with this condition. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms.

Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate and advanced exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms.

Initial Exercises

Static Inner Quadriceps Contraction

Tighten the muscle at the front of your thigh (quadriceps) by pushing your knee down into a towel (figure 2). Put your fingers on your inner quadriceps to feel the muscle tighten during contraction. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times as hard as possible provided there is no increase in symptoms.

Exercises for a Quadriceps Strain - Static Inner Quadriceps Contraction

Figure 2 Static Inner Quadriceps Contraction (left leg)

Knee Bend to Straighten

Bend and straighten your knee as far as possible without pain and provided you feel either nothing, or, no more than a mild to moderate stretch (figure 3). Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free.

Exercises for a Quadriceps Strain - Knee Bend to Straighten

Figure 3 Knee Bend to Straighten (right leg)

Bridging

Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated (figure 4). Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Perform 10 20 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Exercises for a Quadriceps Strain - Bridging

Figure 4 Bridging

Intermediate Exercises

For intermediate exercises that are a vital component of rehabilitation for a quadriceps tear 'Become a Member'.

Already a Member?

 

View the complete article - Quadriceps Strain (Members Only).

 

Advanced Exercises

For advanced exercises that are a vital component of rehabilitation for a quadriceps tear 'Become a Member'.

Already a Member?

 

View the complete article - Quadriceps Strain (Members Only).

 

Other Exercises

For other exercises that can help to accelerate recovery from a quadriceps tear 'Become a Member'.

Already a Member?

 

View the complete article - Quadriceps Strain (Members Only).

 

Rehabilitation Protocol

For a step by step, detailed rehabilitation protocol for a quadriceps tear 'Become a Member'.

Already a Member?

 

View the complete article - Quadriceps Strain (Members Only).

 

Find a Physio

Find a physiotherapist in your local area who can treat this condition.

 

Physiotherapy products for a quadriceps strain

Some of the most commonly recommended products by physiotherapists to hasten healing and speed recovery in patients with this condition include:

  1. Crutches
  2. Ice Packs
  3. Compression Bandages

 

Physiotherapy products that may be beneficial after the initial 72 hour period following injury and under guidance by the treating physiotherapist include:

  1. Heat Packs
  2. Resistance Band (for strengthening exercises)
  3. Spikey Massage Balls (for self massage)
  4. Foam Rollers (for self massage)

To purchase physiotherapy products for a quadriceps tear click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.

More information

'PhysioAdvisor Exercises' iPhone App

'PhysioAdvisor Exercises' iPhone App Download the 'PhysioAdvisor Exercises' iPhone App to your iPhone.

 

Return to the top of Quadriceps Strain.

Relevant Anatomy for a Quadriceps Strain

Figure 1 Relevant Anatomy for a Quadriceps Strain (Vastus Intermedius Not Shown)

Become a PhysioAdvisor Member

 

Skins Sports Long Tights

 

Hot and Cold Pack

 

Theraband

 

Spikey Massage Balls

 

Crutches Ad

 

Wheat Heat Pack

 

Foam Rollers

 

PhysioAdvisor Newsletter

Web Design Melbourne, Web Development Melbourne, CMS, by Melbourne Web Designers - Get Started