Quad Strain / Tear

What is a Quad Strain?

The quadriceps (quad) muscle is a group of four muscles on the front of your upper leg that connect to your knee just below the knee cap. They straighten and bend the knee and they move your leg forward as you run and as your foot makes contact with the ground to absorb the shock. These muscles also help you jump and provide stability during one-leg standing activities. In short, they help with a lot of different movements. A quad strain injury is common in football, basketball, soccer, running and baseball, and there are three different grades of a quad strain. If you’re not sure of the seriousness of your injury, always make sure to contact your physio or GP.

Cause and Symptoms

If a sudden motion overpowers the strength of the quads’ muscle fibers, tears can occur. Sudden twists can also cause a tear in the quads, but other factors like muscle fatigue, tightness and muscle imbalance can predispose someone to quadriceps tears. Here are a few of the symptoms:

  • A “pulling” sensation in the front of the thigh
  • Pain, swelling or bruising
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Loss of strength in the leg


When a quad muscle strain occurs during a competition or training, it is important to react immediately. In the 10 minutes following the trauma one needs to put the knee of the affected leg immediately in 120° of flexion (bending). This avoids potential muscle spasms, reduces the hemorrhage and minimizes the risk of developing something that’s called myositis ossificans (1). If the knee is left in full extension (straightened) the healing process will be slower and more painful because the quadriceps will start to heal in a shortened position. During the healing process RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is also important. The acute phase of treatment is subsequently followed by an active phase of management, which consists of stretching and strength exercises. Your physiotherapist will be able to help with this.

1. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Quadriceps_Muscle_Strain
2. https://www.sportsandspinal.net.au/quad-strain-will-you-be-left-kicking-yourself/