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Thigh Muscle Injury

Quadriceps Tear

Minute Read


Posted 12 months ago


Last updated: 29/11/2022


by James McCormack

A quadriceps tear or strain is an injury seen with relative frequency in athletics and some sports that involve sudden explosive acceleration and deceleration, such as soccer and rugby. A quadriceps tear is more severe than a sprain and can result in significant time off from training and competition. It is a tear in quadriceps muscle, which is actually a muscle group comprising of four individual muscles. Therefore the injury will be specific to one of those four, they are rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis.

How Do You Tear A Quadricep Muscle?

A muscle tear to the quadriceps is most frequently caused by a sudden contraction and stretch of the muscle. This sudden stretch makes the muscle more vulnerable and the contraction provides the power to create the injury. 

A quadriceps muscle tear is an injury most associated with high impact and intensity sports. Sports that require sudden acceleration, deceleration, jumping or sudden changes of direction will provide the right situation to increase injury risk and possible quadriceps tears.

Quadriceps Tear Symptoms

The quadriceps tear symptoms are always some degree of pain. It then depends on the severity of the tear as to the additional symptoms. Additional quadriceps tear symptoms include swelling, bruising, loss of range of movement, and loss of strength. The greater the grade of tear the more severe pain can be, and the more additional symptoms will present. Therefore restricting the ability to train and compete in sports, or daily activities in severe cases.

A quadriceps injury can be classified into one of four grades, and a letter suffix ‘a’, ‘b’ or ‘c’ denotes the location. ‘a’ is myofascial, ‘b’ musculo-tendinous and ‘c’ intratendinous. You can read more detail about muscle tear classification in this paper, including MRI findings for each grade (Pollock et al, 2014).

Grade 0 | DOMS

Delayed onset of muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, is the typical muscle soreness felt after exercise, induced by an overload of the muscle. If followed by appropriate rest and recovery this can be effective at making the muscle stronger. But if not given adequate recovery can lead to injury.

Grade 1 | Mild | Small tear

Pain is tolerable with exercise. The range of movement at 24h is normal. There is no loss of strength or difficulty to contract the quadriceps muscle. And there will be no palpable muscle defect.

Grade 2 | Moderate

Pain is unable to exercise through. The range of movement at 24h is slightly restricted and there is moderate loss of strength, with pain on contraction of the quadriceps muscle. There may feel a small palpable muscle defect.

Grade 3 | Severe

Sudden onset of pain, the individual may fall to the ground, and there will be pain to walk. The range of movement at 24h is severely restricted. There is an obvious and significant weakness, with pain and difficulty contracting the quadriceps muscle. There is often a small palpable muscle defect felt.

Grade 4 | Complete tear

Sudden onset of severe pain, the individual will probably fall to the ground and be unable to get up, or walk. The range of movement at 24h is severely limited. And they will be unable to contract the quadriceps muscle. There will be a large palpable muscle defect felt in the quadriceps.

Quadriceps Tear Recovery Time

The recovery time of a quadriceps tear will depend on the grade and location of injury.  If the quadricep tear is mild to moderate it may take 6-8 weeks to recovery. For more severe cases it can be more than 12 weeks, often several months for full recovery and return to sport.

Knee Brace For Quadricep Tear

For severe injuries, it will be necessary for the knee to be held in complete extension for a period of time. The duration will be dependent on the injury severity and location of the quadriceps tear. This brace offers full support due to its length,  to keep the knee fully extended. Its open design makes it more breathable and comfortable. And this brace can be worn with a compressive sleeve underneath if there is a lot of swelling.

James McCormack is a Physical Therapist who specialises in knee, foot & ankle injuries. www.james-mccormack.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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Compression Strapping For Quadriceps Tear

Elevation and compression are the best methods to reduce swelling around an injury to promote healing. If the quadriceps tear is very swollen, then using a compressive strapping can be very effective. This strapping is adjustable it will fit you no mater the size of your thigh, and will still fit as the swelling reduces.

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Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

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