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Quadriceps strain

The quadriceps muscle is the large muscle group located on the front of the thigh. It is the muscle that straightens (extends) your knee joint and which a portion of it bends (flexes) the hip. A strain in a muscle occurs when the muscle fibres are stretched or torn.

A quadriceps strain is common when the muscle is contracted forcefully during activity (e.g. sprinting, jumping or kicking).

There are a number of predisposing factors towards a quadriceps strain:

•    Poor flexibility of the quadriceps muscle
•    Poor endurance of the quadriceps muscle
•    Inadequate rehabilitation of a previous injury to the quadriceps
•    Decreased strength of the quadriceps muscle –concentrically (shortening) and eccentrically (lengthening)
•    Poor warm up before exercise
•    Abnormal lower limb biomechanics

Symptoms of a Quadriceps strain

At the time of injury a sudden pain will be felt on the front of the thigh. There will be tenderness over the area of the strain and bruising and swelling may develop over several hours if the strain is moderate to severe. Walking will be painful as will bending and straightening of the knee. Stretching and resisted contraction of the muscle will also be painful.

Diagnosis and treatment

Quadriceps strain can range from mild to severe. Your physiotherapist will assess your injury and determine its severity. The extent of the injury will determine the type and period of rehabilitation required.

In most cases though, initial treatment of this condition would involve reducing pain and inflammation. This may involve the use of ice and electrotherapeutic modalities. Your physiotherapist may also give you crutches to use if you are unable to walk unaided. It is also important to rest at this time and allow time for healing to take place. Once the initial pain and swelling has subsided then gentle stretches and soft tissue therapy will begin.

Your physiotherapist will also provide you with a program of strengthening exercises that your physiotherapist would progress as appropriate. Your physiotherapist will also assess and treat any other predisposing factors at this time (e.g. poor biomechanics). Finally your rehabilitation would move on to focus more on exercises that are specifically designed for your return to sport as soon and as safely as possible.