Key Points about Quadricep Tear or Strain

  • Quadricep tears or strains can result from an abrupt movement of the legs.
  • Symptoms of a quadriceps tear or strain may include pain, swelling, and trouble moving the affected leg.
  • Quadricep injuries are treated with rest, ice, physical therapy and in extreme cases, surgery.
  • Overstretching the muscles, having muscle fatigue, and failing to warm up before exercising can increase your risk of experiencing a quadricep injury.
Common related conditions
Quadriceps Tendonitis Thigh and Lower Leg Fractures Meniscus Tear or Strain

Overview

Each of our thighs has four quadriceps muscles. When an abrupt movement causes one or more quadricep muscles to tear or strain, you may experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, bruising and limited range of motion in the affected leg.

Most quadricep injuries resolve on their own with rest, ice, and physical therapy exercises. Severe quadricep tears may require surgery.

Call your doctor if your pain and swelling worsens over time or is so severe that you are unable to walk.

Quadricep tear or strain causes

Abrupt, powerful movements of the leg can cause the quadricep muscle to tear or strain. These movements can occur from overstretching the muscle, or while playing sports such as football or soccer.

Quadricep tear or strain risk factors

You may be more likely to tear or strain a quadricep if you:

  • Have fatigued muscles
  • Overstretch the leg muscles
  • Play certain sports, such as football or soccer
  • Do not warm up adequately before exercising

Weak quadricep muscles are more likely to tear. The following can contribute to quadriceps weakness, and increase your risk of sustaining a tear:

  • Tendinitis in the quadriceps
  • Using steroids
  • Being sedentary for long periods of time
  • Having certain chronic diseases that disrupt blood flow

Quadricep tear or strain symptoms

Symptoms of a quadriceps tear or strain may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Trouble moving the affected leg or walking
  • Bruising
  • Cramping

Quadricep tear or strain prevention

To prevent quadricep injuries, make sure you worm up adequately and properly before exercising—particularly when the weather is cold.

Quadricep tear or strain diagnosis

Most quadricep injuries do not require a medical diagnosis. If your tear or strain is severe, your doctor will provide a physical examination of the area and may provide imaging tests to rule out other causes of your pain.

Quadricep tear or strain treatment

While most quadricep injuries heal on their own with rest and ice, more serious cases may require medical treatment.

If you see your doctor for a quadriceps injury, you may be prescribed medication to alleviate pain and swelling and given physical therapy routine to perform over time as you recover. Severe quadriceps tears—those in which the muscle has been completely severed—will require surgery.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if your injury causes severe pain that inhibits your ability to walk, or if your pain worsens over time.

Next Steps

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and help set up a treatment plan that works best for you.