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Quadricep Injuries

The quadriceps are the group of muscles at the front of your thighs. They work to straighten the knee and bend the hip. 


Quadricep injuries are a common sports injury, and can happen regularly in contact sports such as rugby, soccer, basketball, and netball because of the dynamic and high collision nature of the sport. 


Quad injuries can be acute or chronic. An acute injury is due to the muscle undergoing a traumatic event, and a chronic injury occurs with repetitive overuse over a longer period of time. 


The quadriceps are often injured in the following ways:

  1. Kicking

  2. Sprinting

  3. Quick changes of direction


A common injury of the quadriceps is a contusion, also known as a “corked thigh”. This is caused by a direct blow to the front of your leg, resulting in damage to the blood vessels and bleeding. The inflammation of the surrounding muscle causes pain. 


Quadricep strains occur as a consequence of repetitive overuse, causing inflammation of the muscle fibres and sometimes a partial tear. 


Symptoms Of A Quadricep Injury


Symptoms of a quadricep injury often include:

  • Pain at the front of the thigh

  • Difficulty walking

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Difficulty bending and straightening the knee



Types of Quadricep Injuries: Grade 1, Grade 2 & Grade 3


Grade 1 Quadricep Injury


Grade 1 is a mild strain involving a small number of muscle fibres. You will have pain but mostly retain your function. You may feel a general feeling of tightness, and feel some discomfort when walking. You may feel a lump in the muscle or an area of spasm. Grade 1 strains will take approximately 2 weeks to recover.


Grade 2 Quadricep Injury


Grade 2 is a moderate strain whereby a significant number of muscle fibres are affected and you will have moderate loss of function. You will feel a sudden sharp pain and will be unable to play on. You may have some swelling or mild bruising, and with often have pain with walking and bending the knee. Full recovery will take 4-6 weeks and you will require proper rehabilitation to regain full function. If you are aiming to return to high impact or high speed sport, you must consult your physiotherapist to help rehabilitate you back to full function to avoid a re-tear of the muscle. 


Grade 3 Quadricep Injury


Grade 3 is a severe strain. You will have difficulty weight bearing on the affected leg and will most likely require crutches to help you to walk. You may also have significant swelling or bruising. With a severe tear you may be able to see a visible deformity in the muscle. Full recovery may take several months and you will need to seek professional treatment to help you return to your full functional capacity.


What To Do When You Injure Your Quadricep?


Immediate physiotherapy treatment of a quad strain should follow the RICER protocol. That is, rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral to a healthcare professional. You may also take pain medication to help settle down the pain and swelling. After 72 hours you can start to apply heat to the injured area to help relax the muscles and relieve your pain. You may require crutches to lighten the load through the injured leg and enable you to walk with less pain. 


You will need to resume your activities gradually to enable your muscle to heal properly and prevent you from injuring it again. You must also ensure you warm up before physical activity and include calf muscle stretches, especially before doing any quick changes of direction, sprinting or jumping.



How Can Physiotherapy Help With Quad Injuries?


Physiotherapy aims to relieve your pain through soft tissue massage, ultrasound, hot or cold packs and TENS. We give you advice on how long you need to stay off sport, and when it is safe to return. We will assist you in regaining your range of motion and building up your strength. We prescribe you with exercises that are safe to do while you’re off sport to help target your flexibility, strength and endurance. We make your exercises sports specific so that you are better able to handle all the challenges that your sport requires. We will help to rehabilitate quick changes of direction, kicking and sprinting for your sport. Your exercise program will include all aspects of fitness including flexibility, power and endurance. Our comprehensive rehabilitation program will help to return you to your sport or other activities as quickly as possible and help to prevent further recurrences.



Tips For Preventing Quad Injuries


1. Make sure the quadriceps are adequately stretched before physical activity


2. Engage in a thorough warm up that involves dynamic stretching, light cardio and sports specific drills


3. Maintain your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance to prevent muscle fatigue. When the muscles are fatigued, they are more susceptible to injury as they are unable to cope with the load placed through them. 


4. Allow adequate recovery time between training sessions, and ensure you are gradually increasing the intensity and duration of training.


5. Don’t ignore warning signs of mild discomfort- see a health professional to assist you in preventing further damage



If you are suffering from a quadriceps injury or have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we would be more than happy to help! Give us a call on 9875 3760 or email us info@wphphysio.com.au.



You do not need a Doctors' referral in order to make an appointment with a Physiotherapist

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