Sports Rehab for Quadriceps Strain


Sports Rehab for quadriceps strain is common to sports activity that requires sprinting, jumping or kicking. Some of the sports where you may see this injury is football, track, soccer and basketball. By definition a quadriceps strain is a tearing of muscle fibers in one of the anterior thigh muscles.

Anatomy of quad muscleThe quadriceps or anterior thigh muscle is made up of four distinct muscles; the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris. The majority of quadriceps strains occurs in the largest muscle of the group known as the rectus femoris.

The rectus femoris is susceptible to this of injury because it goes from the hip to the knee. The most common areas of quadriceps strain happens in the belly of the muscle or where the muscle becomes a tendon just above the knee.

There are three grades of quadriceps or thigh strain (1) grade 1 is not considered serious but the athlete will experience a twinge and tightness in the thigh and have discomfort walking (2) grade 2 is more serious where the athlete feels sudden sharp pain in the muscle causing greater difficulty in walking. It is also painful to move the knee into extension or fully bend or squat and (3) grade 3 is the most severe type where the athlete cannot walk unless a cane or axillary crutches are utilized. In this grade you will see increased swelling, significant bruising and a visible bulge within the muscle.

In this article we will discuss sports rehab for this injury covering causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Causes of Quadriceps Strain

tennis quad strainMost often these strains occur when an athlete is attempting to accelerate. The quadriceps sometimes cannot handle the force applied resulting in fibers or tendons tearing. An athlete is susceptible to this type of injury when the muscle is fatigued, overworked or not adequately warmed up. Quadriceps strain frequently occurs when there is a direct impact on the muscle such as in a football tackle or ice hockey check. The risk of this injury is directly related to the tightness of the quadriceps muscle. An athlete in sports rehab will certainly be educated in the causes of this injury.

Symptoms of Quadriceps Strain

Athletes who sustain a quadriceps strain will usually experience a sudden sharp pain in the area coinciding with tightening of the muscle. There will be hematoma, swelling and extreme tenderness upon palpation. The athlete will have great difficulty walking especially on stairs. With severe strains of the anterior thigh the athlete develops a noticeable limp. Flexing or bending the knee and attempting to straighten is painful and difficult. On visual examination of the quadriceps a bulge in the muscle sometimes is evident.

Sports Rehab for Quadriceps Strains

Initial treatment when the injury first happens is to apply ice and a compression bandage immediately to reduce bleeding within the fibers and minimize swelling. Following the R.I.C.E.(rest, ice, compression and elevation) principles should be followed for a few days.

Us quadWhen the acute pain subsides sports rehab goes into full gear to speed up recovery. The sports rehab specialist will start sports massage on the athlete to relax the tense muscle and prevent scar tissue build up. Modalities such as ultra sound, electrical stimulation and cold laser will accelerate the recovery by soothing the muscle, reduce swelling, decrease bruising and prevent build up of scar tissue.

The sports rehab program will consist of mild stretching and strengthening exercises progressing to low and high impact conditioning. Some of the apparatus used in sports rehab are stationary bikes, ellipticals, steppers, treadmills, knee and hip machines and balancing devices. The athlete will also be instructed in proper exercises to be performed at home on a daily basis.

Prevention of Quadriceps Strain

quad stretch off tableKnowing the risk factors are extremely important and the athlete in a sports rehab program will definitely be made aware of these (1) muscle tightness (2) muscle imbalance  especially if the hamstring muscle is stronger than quadriceps (3) poor conditioning and (4) muscle fatigue.

The athlete will prevent the injury if you condition yourself on a regular regimen, warm up prior to any exercise or sports activity, cool down after activity with stretching and you must be patient for the muscles to heal.

Before you think about returning to your sport your strength and flexibility should return to pre injury status. The athlete should never hesitate to ask the sports rehab specialist any question regarding the injury and recovery.