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What are the Symptoms of a Quadriceps Tear?

By N. Swensson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The quadriceps muscles are located on the front of the leg, in the area just below the hip to the top of the knee. A quadriceps tear, also called a strain, is often caused by activities like jumping and running. In many cases, a quadriceps tear occurs in the area just above the knee, which is particularly vulnerable to strain. The symptoms of this injury depend on the severity and can range from mild to very intense pain when using the muscle, as well as swelling, bruising, and restriction of movement. For very serious injuries, medical attention may be needed to prevent permanent damage to the muscle.

Symptoms of a mild quadriceps tear can begin with a slight pulling or twinging sensation during physical activity. Later, there may be pain when walking, bending, or straightening the leg. Usually the area is not swollen, but local spasms can occur, and the muscle may feel tight. This type of minor injury can often be treated at home by applying ice compresses several times each day until symptoms subside. Using a compression bandage can also help to stabilize the torn muscle. It is usually fine to resume physical activity as soon as the symptoms subside.

More intense pain is the main symptom of a more severe quadriceps tear. The injured person will usually experience a more sudden and sharp pain than one with a mild strain. There may also be more swelling, mild bruising, and difficulty walking or bearing weight on the injured leg. In some cases, pressing on the injured area may also cause greater pain. In addition to the treatments for a mild tear, those who are moderately injured may need to keep the leg elevated and immobilized and may need to use crutches. Visiting a medical professional can also help to alleviate symptoms.

The most severe quadriceps injury will usually cause very intense pain. There can be swelling that occurs almost immediately after the injury, followed by bruising within 24 hours. Applying ice to the injured area as soon as possible can help to minimize pain and swelling. Many people with a serious quadriceps tear cannot walk without using crutches and can't return to normal activities for as long as three months. When a very serious strain is suspected, medical attention may be needed right away, as this type of injury may cause permanent weakening of the muscle. Although unusual, some cases may require surgery to repair the damage.

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Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Jun 01, 2013

@MikeMason-- I agree with @turkay1. If you don't have any soreness or swelling, it might just be a pulled muscle. A tear in the quadriceps will cause soreness, tightness and pain.

I tore my quadriceps twice. The first time, I fell down and tore it. The second time, I tore the same quadriceps again during exercise because I pushed myself too hard. Both times, I had soreness and tightness for months. I was limping the first several weeks and I would get swelling on and off.

By candyquilt — On Jun 01, 2013

@MikeMason-- I'm not a doctor and I wouldn't want to steer you in the wrong direction. But when I tore my quadriceps, I had terrible pain, as well as swelling.

Usually there is a sharp pain when the muscle tears, followed by swelling and restricted movement. I think that if you had a tear, you would know it. But then again, maybe a minor tear or strain wouldn't be so painful. So if the symptoms continue, see your doctor.

By stoneMason — On May 31, 2013

I played basketball yesterday after a long time and today my right quadriceps feel very tight. It's also uncomfortable to bend them. Could I have torn my quadricep muscle?

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