Quadriceps Strain



A quadriceps strain is a partial tear of the small fibers of the large group of muscles in the front of the thigh.

The Quadriceps Muscles
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The most common cause is when the muscle group is stretched beyond its normal range.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who play sports, such as running, jumping, soccer, basketball, or football. Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Tight quadriceps
  • A muscle imbalance
  • Weak muscles
  • Muscle fatigue



Problems may be:

  • Pain in the front of the thigh
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Muscle weakness


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your thigh. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.



Most strains heal in about 3 weeks. It can take up to 6 months for a severe strain to heal. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. This may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Crutches to take weight off of the leg as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion


Most strains are due to accidents. Healthy muscles may prevent some accidents. This may be done through exercise.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Pulled Quadriceps)


American Council on Exercise http://www.acefitness.org 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org 


Canadian Physiotherapy Association http://www.physiotherapy.ca 

The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca 


Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDS for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, (6):CD007402.

Eckard TG, Kerr ZY, et al. Epidemiology of quadriceps strain in National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletes, 2009-2010 through 2014-2015. J Athletic Training. 2017;52(5):474-481.

Hamstring strain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hamstring-strain . Updated April 30, 2018. Accessed December 9, 2019.

Muscle strains in the thigh. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00366. Updated March 2014. Accessed September 7, 2017.

Wong S, Ning A, et al. Return to sport after muscle injury. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2015 Jun;8(2):168-175.