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Quadriceps Strain

The quadriceps are one of three sets of large muscles that make up the thigh. Located in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps are strong muscles and can handle large amounts of stress. However, they can become overstretched or torn. This kind of injury is called a strain, and is particularly common among athletes who rely on these muscles for running, jumping, and making sudden starts and stops

Quadriceps Strain Hero Image 2

The quadriceps are one of three sets of large muscles that make up the thigh. Located in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps are strong muscles and can handle large amounts of stress. However, they can become overstretched or torn. This kind of injury is called a strain, and is particularly common among athletes who rely on these muscles for running, jumping, and making sudden starts and stops. Quadriceps strains can range in severity, but are often painful and can keep an athlete out of play for several weeks.

What causes Quadriceps Strain?

Quadricep strains often occur during athletic competition, when athletes make a sudden and forceful motion that pulls or tears the muscle fibers of the quadriceps. Lack of adequate warm-up and stretching can put athletes at greater risk for this injury. A direct blow to the thigh can also cause a quadriceps muscle strain.

Quadriceps strains are most common in these sports:

• Soccer
• Hockey
• Football
• Rugby
• Basketball
• Sprinting

Symptoms

Quadricep strains often cause pain and loss of strength. These and other symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of muscle tearing. Moderate to severe strains will likely keep the athlete on the sidelines from sports play. Common symptoms also include:

• Popping or snapping sensation at the time of injury
• Sharp pain and tenderness
• Swelling
• Bruising
• Loss of strength and motion

When to see a doctor

If you have strained your thigh muscle, you should stop play immediately. Consult with your doctor on a treatment and rehabilitation plan so your injured muscles can heal properly and you can get back to your normal activities. Your doctor will ask questions about your injury and overall medical history. A physical examination will check for signs of injury, like swelling and bruising. Your doctor may check your range of movement by bending or straightening your knee and hip. He or she may order an imaging test (like an x-ray) to check for fractures, and occasionally, an MRI may be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Non-operative treatment

Treatment of quadriceps strains usually involves conservative measures to allow injured muscles to heal properly. Conservative treatments include:

• Rest from activities and sports that place strain on the quadriceps. This could include using crutches to keep weight off the affected leg
• Ice to reduce swelling
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to help relieve pain and inflammation
• Compression bandages to help reduce swelling and protect the muscle
• Physical therapy (such as stretching exercises and sports massage) after pain and swelling have subsided, to help in the healing process

You can also try these exercises at home:

Quadriceps Strain

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is rarely recommended for the treatment of quadriceps strains. Your doctor can advise you if you should consult with an orthopedic surgeon.

Recovery

The time it takes to return to play will depend on the extent of the injury and how the athlete follows treatment recommendations. Before getting back to sports, athletes should be free from pain and have strength and range of motion similar to pre-injury levels. With proper rest, treatment and rehabilitation, most athletes can expect a full recovery from this injury.

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