Quadriceps or Quad Muscle Anatomy and Injuries

Quadriceps injuries can happen in many ways. You can injure your quad in sports, a fall, after a long run/walk, a slip and fall are just a few examples that you can injure your quad. 

What Are The Quadriceps?

Anatomical Quadricep labeled and descriptive of the muscles contained in the quad.Quadricep or Quad  Muscle Anatomy

The quad muscles are the largest and strongest muscles in your body. They are a group of four muscles located at the front of your thigh. These four muscles work together to help you stand, walk, run, and move around. They extend or straighten the knee and help to flex or bend the hip. They are a vital part of the knee's anatomy.

Quad Muscle Anatomy

There are 4 muscles in the quadriceps grouping.  They are the:

Vastus Medialis or VMO, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius and the Rectus Femoris.  The VMO plays a very important role within the knee joint.   When an injury occurs to the knee or quad, swelling will cause the VMO to not contract.  The VMO will atrophy quickly causing an imbalance in the quad group.  The quad muscles control the tracking of the patella.  When the VMO is weak or has atrophy, the patella or knee cap will then track to the outside of the knee causing pain.  To learn more on how to strengthen the VMO, please read this article on VMO and Quad Strengthening.

What is the Most Common Injury to the Quadricep?

The most common quadriceps injury is contusion. A contusion is a direct blow to the area via another person or an object. This type of injury is more common in contact sports like football or soccer. 

Quadriceps tendonitis occurs where the muscle attaches to the patella bone. This can happen after a long run, walk, cycle or doing something repetitive.  Repetitive stress can cause irritation, swelling, and inflammation or the Quad tendon. 

The vastus Muscles located in the Quadricep on both legs left and right.Quadriceps Muscles

How Long Does it Take for a Quadriceps Strain to Heal?

The time frame for this type of muscle strain will differ from person to person. Depending on the degree of the strain this injury can last from a few weeks to a few months. The process of healing will be the use of anti-inflammatory, decreasing activity that causes the pain/inflammation as well as maintaining strength and flexibility. Physical therapy is often helpful to help the quad to heel fully.

Quadriceps strains usually occur due to repetitive overuse of the muscle which causes the muscle fibers to become inflamed or even partially torn. 

Usually, this happens when there is a greater load on the muscle can causing the muscle to wear down and potentially become torn. This is common in athletes who are weight training, but it can also occur with people who perform manual labor. 

How Do You Know If You Torn Your Quad?

The most common characterization of a torn quadricep is feeling a pop or a tearing sensation. This will be accompanied with difficulty in straightening your leg as well as problems performing normal daily activities such as walking or standing. A list of signs that you may have a torn quad include:

  • Tearing sensation
  • Feeling a pop
  • Severe pain and swelling
  • Difficulty bending or straightening the knee
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Sensation of knee buckling

Depending on the severity of the tear, there are 2 case scenarios.

  1. Non-surgical Recovery
  2. Surgical Recovery

How Do You Fix Quadriceps Injuries?

Fixing the quad injury can either be non-surgical or surgical. An Orthopedic doctor may order an X-ray and MRI to help with the diagnosis and determine the severity.

Films will help to determine if any bone was injured or if the quad tendon/muscles were torn or strained.  In any injury to the quad muscle or the knee, it is important to get the VMO (vastus medialis oblique) to contract.  When the knee or quad has been injured, swelling within the VMO will cause the muscle to shut down.  It is very important to reduce the swelling in this area so that the VMO can contract and function.  This is the first goal in the rehab process.  The VMO is vital to maintain the proper position of the knee cap of the knee. 

Woman o Loftsrand crutches with a right long leg brace in physical therapy to recover from a quadriceps or quad injuryPhysical Therapy for Quadriceps Injuries

Treatment for a Small Tear may include:

  • Bracing
  • Progressive ROM
  • Physical Therapy

Treatment for a Large Tear may include:

  • Surgery to repair the tear (may involve overnight hospital stay)
  • Physical Therapy
  • Progressive ROM
  • Progressive return to normal activity (May take 6 months to a year)

Quadriceps injuries can sideline you, but with the right Orthopedic and Rehabilitation team, you can get back in the game!

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Quadriceps Injury Doctors in Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute is Northeast Florida's Premier Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Provider! To schedule a new appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Specialist, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To see a JOI Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapist, call (904)858-7045.

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