Quadriceps Strain

(Pulled Quadriceps)

Definition

Quadriceps strain is a partial tear of the small fibers of the muscles that make up the quadriceps group. The quadriceps are the large group of muscles in the front of the thigh. They consist of four muscles in each leg that run from the hips to the knees.
The Quadriceps Muscles
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Causes

A quadriceps strain can be caused by stretching the quadriceps beyond the amount of tension or stress that they can withstand.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of a quadriceps strain include:
  • Suddenly putting stress on the quadriceps when the muscle is not ready for the stress
  • Using the quadriceps too much on a certain day
  • Experiencing a blow to the quadriceps
  • Doing a strenuous quadriceps activity
  • Sports that require bursts of speed or sudden twists and turns, such as running, jumping, basketball, or football
  • Fatigue
  • Tight quadriceps
  • Cold weather
  • Previous quadriceps injury

Symptoms

Quadriceps strain may cause:
  • Pain and tenderness in the front of the thigh
  • Stiffness and swelling in the quadriceps
  • Weakness of the quadriceps
  • Bruising on the front of the thigh—if blood vessels are broken
  • Popping or snapping sensation as the muscle tears—rare

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, your recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. Your thighs will be examined for:
  • Tenderness and/or bruising directly over the quadriceps
  • Pain or weakness when contracting the quadriceps, particularly against resistance
Imaging tests evaluate your leg muscles and surrounding structures. They may include:Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
  • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of muscle fibers.
  • Grade 2—Partial tearing of muscle fibers.
  • Grade 3—Complete tearing of muscle fibers. This may also be called a rupture or avulsion.

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