Quadriceps Strain

Brief Outline of Quadriceps Strain

Quadriceps Strain

A muscle strain, which is a forceful stretch or tear of the muscle or tendon in a weight bearing muscle such as the quadriceps, is painful and difficult to rest. The quadriceps are involved in supporting the hip and knee structure to hold the body weight. A quadriceps strain can result from a forceful contraction of the quadriceps or unusual stress placed on the muscles. As with other strains it is graded 1 through 3, with 3 being the most severe tear.

Anatomy and physiology

The quadriceps are composed of four muscles; the vastus lateralisvastus medialisvastus intermedius, and rectus femoris. A strain may occur in any of these muscles, but the rectus femoris is most commonly strained. Due to the force generated in activities such as sprinting, jumping, and weight training, the musclee may microtear, but when the muscle is stretched forcefully under a load such as with high impact sports like football and hockey, it may also pull away from the attachment or completely tear.

Cause of Quadriceps Strain

Forceful contraction or stretch of the quadriceps.

Signs and symptoms

Grade 1: Mildly tender and painful, little or no swelling, full muscular strength.

Grade 2: More marked pain and tenderness, moderate swelling and possible bruising, noticeable strength loss.

Grade 3 (full tear): Extreme pain, deformity of the muscle, swelling and discolouration, inability to contract the muscle.

Complications if left unattended

grade 1 or 2 tear left unattended can continue to tear and become worse. A grade 3 tear left untreated can result in loss of mobility and a severe loss of flexibility in the muscle.


  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Immobilisation
  • Physiotherapy

Rehabilitation and prevention

After the required rest period, activities should be approached cautiously. Avoid activities that cause pain. Stretching and strengthening of the quadriceps will be necessary. Ensuring a balance strength between the quadriceps and hamstrings is important to prevent a strain. Poor warm-up techniques must be observed to prevent strains and gradually increasing intensity will help as well.

Long-term prognosis

Quadriceps strains seldom result in long-term pain or disability. Surgery is only needed in rare cases where a complete tear does not respond to immobilisation and rest.

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