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Quadriceps strain is a partial tear of the small fibers of the muscles that make up the quadriceps group. The quadriceps are the large group of muscles in the front of the thigh. They consist of four muscles in each leg that run from the hips to the knees.
A quadriceps strain can be caused by stretching the quadriceps beyond the amount of tension or stress that they can withstand.
Factors that increase your risk of a quadriceps strain include:
- Suddenly putting stress on the quadriceps when the muscle is not ready for the stress
- Using the quadriceps too much on a certain day
- Experiencing a blow to the quadriceps
- Doing a strenuous quadriceps activity
- Sports that require bursts of speed, such as:
- Tight quadriceps
- Cold weather
- Previous quadriceps injury
- Pain and tenderness in the front of the thigh
- Stiffness and swelling in the quadriceps
- Weakness of the quadriceps
- Bruising on the front of the thigh—if blood vessels are broken
- Popping or snapping sensation as the muscle tears—rare
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, your recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. Your thighs will be examined for:
- Tenderness and/or bruising directly over the quadriceps
- Pain or weakness when contracting the quadriceps, particularly against resistance
Images may be taken to see how severe the injury is with:
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
- Some stretching with small tears of muscle fibers
- Complete recovery can take 10-21 days