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Definition

A quadriceps strain is a partial tear of the small fibers of the large group of muscles in the front of the thigh.

The Quadriceps Muscles
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Causes

The most common cause is when the muscle group is stretched beyond its normal range.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who play sports, such as running, jumping, soccer, basketball, or football. Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Tight quadriceps
  • A muscle imbalance
  • Weak muscles
  • Muscle fatigue

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain in the front of the thigh
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Muscle weakness

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your thigh. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

Most strains heal in about 3 weeks. It can take up to 6 months for a severe strain to heal. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. This may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Crutches to take weight off of the leg as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion

Prevention

Most strains are due to accidents. Healthy muscles may prevent some accidents. This may be done through exercise.

RESOURCES:

American Council on Exercise
http://www.acefitness.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Physiotherapy Association
http://www.physiotherapy.ca

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

REFERENCES:

Derry S, Moore RA, Gaskell H, McIntyre M, Wiffen PJ. Topical NSAIDS for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, (6):CD007402.

Eckard TG, Kerr ZY, et al. Epidemiology of quadriceps strain in National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletes, 2009-2010 through 2014-2015. J Athletic Training. 2017;52(5):474-481.

Hamstring strain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hamstring-strain. Updated April 30, 2018. Accessed December 9, 2019.

Muscle strains in the thigh. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00366. Updated March 2014. Accessed September 7, 2017.

Wong S, Ning A, et al. Return to sport after muscle injury. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2015 Jun;8(2):168-175.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS  Last Updated: 12/9/2019