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Injury Prevention: Take Care Of Your Quads

  • By Jordan D. Metzl, M.D.
  • Published May 23, 2014
  • Updated May 23, 2014 at 7:27 PM UTC


The quadricep is one of the most commonly strained muscles. How to avoid—or fix—this injury.

The Symptoms

Anything from a twinge to a sharp pain in the thigh, depending on the severity of the strain. Trying to straighten the leg against resistance causes pain. Swelling and bruising are possible. For grade 2 or 3 strains, the pain affects walking.

What’s Going On In There?

The quadriceps group, at the front of the upper leg, is a set of four muscles (thus quads). The rectus femoris is the most commonly strained muscle because it runs from the hip to the knee and crosses both joints, thus facing the double jeopardy of hip and knee stress. However, the most common site of a strain is at the point where the muscle turns into tendon just above the knee.

Sprinting, jumping or kicking is usually the cause, though any movement can cause a strain.

Fix It

Employ dynamic rest. Avoid loading the leg, especially in the acute stage (the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury).

Ice it. Apply ice for 15 minutes 4 to 6 times a day for the first 2 days.

Compress and elevate. Applying a compression bandage and elevating the leg can help with swelling and inflammation.

Stretch it—gently. Several days after the strain, if it’s comfortable, perform gentle quad stretches for 20 to 30 seconds several times a day.

When To Call A Doctor

For a severe strain (if walking is difficult), or if you don’t get adequate relief for a milder strain with home-based treatment, see a doctor.

A sports doc uses an MRI to determine the extent and specifics of the injury. In addition to suggesting stretching and strengthening exercises, a doctor or physical therapist can prescribe ultrasound or electro- stimulation treatment, as well as sports massage.

Prevent It

Strong, flexible and balanced muscles throughout your lower body will help prevent quad strains (or any strains, for that matter). Click on the tabs on the left for four exercises.

RELATED: IT Band Pain Stretches, Treatment And Prevention

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