A quad strain or quadriceps strain is a tear on the quadriceps muscles. The tear is usually a result of an injury to the muscle group in front of the thigh. The quadriceps muscles consist of the Rectus femoris, Vastus medialis, Vastus lateralis and Vastus intermedius.  Any tear along one or more of these muscles can result to a quad strain. The most common muscle group to be injured is the Rectus femoris because it is the only one that extends from the hip joint to the knee joint; thereby, receiving more tension than the other muscles in the quadriceps. The most common point of the tear is just above the knee where the muscles connect to the tendons.

A quad strain can occur in various grades, which vary according to the severity of the tear. A tear in a quad strain can start as a small tear to a full-blown rupture in the quadriceps muscles. Specific grades of quadriceps strain include:

Grade 1

A grade 1 tear involves a twinge in the anterior thigh. There is a general feeling of discomfort with walking. Resistance against straightening the knee may also produce discomforts. There may be swelling on the thighs although the absence of a swelling may also be possible.

Grade 2

Grade 2 tears produce a sudden sharp pain during jumping, running and kicking. Unlike grade 1 tears, a grade 2 quad strain may cause the person to have inability to use the affected leg because of pain during activities. There will also be mild bruising and swelling on the injured site. Grade 2 quad strains can also lead to inability to fully bend the knees.

Grade 3

The most severe type of a quad strain involves severe pain in the thigh. There can be severe swelling that appears immediately after the injury or tear. There can also be major bruising of the anterior thigh within 24 hours of injury. Patients having grade 3 quad strains require the use of crutches to be able to ambulate. A grade 3 quad strain may also have longer recovery time of up to 6 to 12 weeks.

Causes of Quad Strain

Quad strains can be caused by activities that involve jumping, running and kicking without adequate warm up. As a result, the muscles receive too much tension that they are not accustomed with resulting in a tear or a rupture in the muscles.

Treatments for Quad Strain

Lower grades of quad strain are usually easier to manage as there is no massive rupture in the muscle groups. Application of RICE or Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are the most immediate management that should be employed. Rest allows the muscles to relax preventing further strain. Ice packs relieve swelling and also reduce pain. Compression allows for better support to the area and elevation of the affected leg improves the circulation in the thighs and prevents further swelling. Training can be resumed 72 hours after the injury as long as severe pain is not present.

Grade 3 quad strains may require more aggressive treatments. Any activity should be stopped immediately in cases of severe tearing pain. RICE should also be employed as an emergency measure followed by immediate medical attention because it may lead to permanent injury or muscle weakness. A rehabilitation program is usually employed and surgery may be done in cases of very severe rupture of the muscles.

Since quad strains are highly caused by overuse injuries, adequate warm-up should be employed before any workout or exercise.