The quadriceps is a group of 4 muscles positioned on the front aspect of the upper thigh that function together with the hamstring to extend and bend the leg. An individual with strong and powerful quadriceps is required for high-velocity sports such as football, track and field, soccer and basketball. Injuries to the quadriceps including quadriceps strains are quite common among athletes at all levels whether beginners and the professionals.
When it comes to a quadriceps strain, it involves a partial or full tear to one of the 4 muscles or tendons once they are overly stretched beyond their normal limits.
How quadriceps strains occur
The quadriceps muscles are typically stressed once an individual is attempting to increase speed. These muscles are placed under augmented force than what they can endure and the muscles, tendons or both start to rip away from the bone.
Once the muscles are overused, fatigued or not properly warmed up, they are prone to strain. An imbalance between weakened quadriceps and stronger hamstrings can also lead to injury which is common among runners. The tight quadriceps can also trigger the same problem. Once the quadriceps sustained a direct blow, the muscles are at risk for injury.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Pain during stretching, flexing or when the thigh muscles are moved
- Muscle spasms
- Bruising on the front part of the thigh in case the blood vessels are damaged
- Cracking sensation on the injured area
- Loss of leg strength
Who are at risk?
Those who require bursts of speed face the highest risk for ending up with quadriceps strains. This includes sprinters, runners, jumpers, hurdlers and basketball players. Other sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse and rugby can put an individual at higher risk. Any individual who sustained a previous quadriceps injury is more likely to experience the same injury again.
What is the initial treatment?
- The individual should take some time to rest and avoid activities that require lower leg power and strength.
- Apply an ice pack or cold pack for 15-20 minutes at 3-4 times throughout the day for the initial 48-72 hours.
- You can apply moist heat after the initial 48-72 hours for about 15-20 minutes at 3-4 times throughout the day.
- You can utilize a bandage or elastic wrap around the affected area to reduce the swelling.
- Provide the individual with pain medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen to reduce the pain.
- Utilize a cushion or pillow to raise the affected leg as much as possible during the day and while sleeping at night.
When to resume activity
For mild cases of quadriceps strains, they usually heal within 10 days. As for moderate strains, they take 10 days up to 6 weeks to heal while severe cases can reach up to 3 months or even longer to fully recover.