Quadriceps strain

What are the quadriceps muscles? The quadriceps muscles consist of the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and the rectus femoris. Any of these muscles can strain or tear completely but probably the most common is the rectus femoris.

The rectus femoris goes from the hip to the knee and can be used to straighten the knee or lift the knee up. Through overuse, this muscle can rupture or become torn through kicking or explosive movements as in sprint starts.

Thigh strain often occurs if the muscle is not properly warmed up, is tired, or lacks flexibility, or strength.

A pulled quadriceps muscle can also be the result of a strength imbalance between the quadriceps and the hamstring. If the hamstring muscles in the back of the leg overpower the quadriceps of the front of the leg, this imbalance of forces can result in a pull or a tear.

Muscle strains are graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on the severity of the damage done. It is important you understand what damage has been done so you can treat the injury correctly.

Grade 1:


  • Tightness in the thigh.
  • Unable to walk properly.

What you can do

  • Use a compression bandage or heat.
  • Massage the muscles.
  • Ease down your training for a week or two.
  • See a sports injury specialist.

Grade 2:


  • Unable to walk properly.
  • Sudden twinges of pain during activity.
  • Swelling.
  • Straightening the knee against resistance causes pain.
  • Unable to fully bend the knee.

What you can do

  • Apply RICE: rest - slows down bleeding and reduces the risk of further damage; Ice - eases pain, reduces swelling, reduces bleeding initially; compression - reduces bleeding and swelling; elevation - reduces bleeding and swelling by allowing fluids to flow away from the site of injury.
  • See a sports injury specialist.

Grade 3:


  • Sudden severe pain during activity.
  • Swelling or bruises on the thigh.
  • Unable to walk properly.

What you can do
Seek medical attention immediately - or else muscle may be permanently injured or weakened.

October 2003, Health24

Other related articles:
Painkillers (Paracetamol)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
COX-2 specific inhibitors
Different Steroids
Cortisone injections

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