Quadriceps tendon rupture

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A quadriceps tendon rupture typically occurs among middle-aged individuals during sports. The usual mode of injury is when an individual lands from a jump. It is important that you are prepared to handle this injury. To learn to recognize and manage this injury, sign up for first aid training here.


The symptoms of a quadriceps tendon rupture usually include abrupt pain at the time of injury but it is not always obvious in minor cases. Stiffness and pain that occurs the next day is common in cases where a tendon ruptures. The individual might not be able to bear weight on the affected knee or there is a feeling that the knee is about to give away.

There is minimal swelling and possibly bruising that can be seen right above the knee joint. At the time of injury, there is usually a perceivable pop or crack and the kneecap can be seen moving downwards in the direction of the foot.

Quadriceps tendon rupture
Stiffness and pain that occurs the next day is common in cases where a tendon ruptures. The individual might not be able to bear weight on the affected knee or there is a feeling that the knee is about to give away.

Overview on quadriceps tendon rupture

The quadriceps muscle is comprised of four various muscles. These muscles meet right above the patella and form a very sturdy tendon called the quadriceps tendon. This attaches into the upper surface of the kneecap.

The quadriceps muscles are responsible for extending the knee joint. They are also essential for the overall stability of the legs during movement and work along with the hamstrings to keep the body properly balanced.

Quadriceps tendon rupture typically occurs among middle-aged individuals when engaging in sports. The prevalent mode of injury is when landing from a jump since this will lead to excessive load on the quadriceps tendon, thus resulting to a tear. Most cases of ruptures occur at an area between 0-2 cm above the patella.

It is important to note that this injury is usually secondary to degenerative changes in the quadriceps tendon. These changes might be due to the aging process but the risk of injury is higher among those who have other health issues such as diabetes, obesity or those who previously used steroid injections.


It is important to utilize the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) right away. The ice pack should not be applied directly on the skin. There are commercially available cold packs that are more convenient to use. The ice pack should be applied 10-15 minutes every hour during the acute phase which is usually 24-48 hours depending on the harshness of the injury.

It is recommended to utilize an elastic compression bandage around the site of injury to help minimize any swelling as well as protect the knee. After the acute phase, a neoprene knee support or heat retainer should be used.

A sports injury professional might utilize electrotherapy such as TENS or ultrasound. In most cases, sports massage is also beneficial. As for cross friction massage techniques, they help correct the formation of scar tissue. After the acute phase, heat will stimulate the flow of blood and help with the healing process.

Once pain allows, the individual will undergo a rehabilitation program that includes stretching and strengthening exercises. In circumstances in which there is a severe or full tear of the tendon, surgery is the best option. If the tendon was pulled off the patella, it is sutured securely back in place. After surgery, the knee should be immobilized using a knee brace and avoidance of weight bearing activities is advised for a number of weeks. In addition, rehabilitative exercises must be followed once the rupture has fully healed.

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