For those who work out or engage in sports, the quadriceps is already a familiar term. As for those who are not, the quadriceps is a group of four muscles on the front of the upper thigh that function together with the hamstrings in order to extend and bend the leg. Athletes are required to have strong and powerful quadriceps, especially in high performance sports such as football, soccer and basketball. Injuries to the quadriceps are quite common among athletes in all levels. A quadriceps strain is one of the common injuries that can occur. With a quadriceps strain, it can either be partial or complete tear of one of the four muscles or their tendons when they are stretched beyond their normal limits.
How does a quadriceps strain occur?
The quadriceps muscles are usually strained when an individual is trying to accelerate. These muscles are under more force than what they can normally withstand, thus the muscle fibers, tendons or both will eventually tear away from the bone. Once the muscles are overused, tired or not properly warmed up, they are more prone to strain.
If there is an imbalance between strong hamstrings and weak quadriceps, it can also result to injury. As for tight quadriceps, it can also cause the injury. Additionally, when the quadriceps muscles are hit with a direct blow during hockey or football, they are prone to injury.
Who are at risk for quadriceps strain?
Individuals who engage in sports that involves bursts of speed are at highest risk for quadriceps strain. It includes sports such as rugby, soccer, lacrosse and football. Take note that if the individual has a previous injury on the quadriceps muscles, he/she is likely to suffer the same injury again.
Symptoms of quadriceps strain
- Muscle spasms
- Pain upon stretching, flexing or using the thigh muscles
- Diminished strength on the legs
- Bruising on the front of the thigh if blood vessels are damaged
- Crackling sensation when fingers are pushed on affected area
Treatment for quadriceps strain
If you have enrolled in a first aid class, you will learn about the RICE method on soft tissue injuries. Understandably, this is beneficial since it is part of the initial treatment for quadriceps strains.
The individual must be given enough time to rest and avoid any activities that require the use of the lower leg. Apply an ice pack or cold compress over the affected area for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times in a day for the first 48-72 hours. With an elastic bandage or wrap, it will compress the area to minimize the swelling. Do not forget to elevate the affected leg using a cushion or pillow as much as possible during the day and while sleeping.
Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen or aspirin can be given to relieve the pain. After the first 48-72 hours, you can apply moist heat for 15-20 minutes for 3-4 times in a day.