How to treat a quad strain or tear
Updated: Feb 23
Quad strains are quite common in any sport that involves fast running or sprinting e.g. football or rugby. In this article I’ll highlight the 3 components that you have to think about when you rehabilitate a torn quad muscle, but the video I’ve included will walk you through the full rehab process in a lot more detail.
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Watch the video if you would like a more comprehensive explanation of the rehab process:
The quadriceps actually consists of 4 muscles that work together and they function in 3 (main) ways:
Part of it (the Rectus Femoris) helps to flex your hip;
When your foot is free to move, the quadriceps muscles extend your knee e.g. when you kick a ball or stride forward;
During the squat or lunge movement it helps to extend the knee and push you up, but it also controls the downward motion and helps to lower you down to the floor slowly – basically stops you from just dropping. Think about the running motion – you basically perform a single leg squat as you take your weight and land on one leg and then push yourself back up to move forward.
When you design a rehab programme for a strained or torn quad, you have to include exercises that work the muscles in ways that are similar to all 3 these functions. I discuss this in much more detail in the video above, but example exercises include:
For hip flexion: While standing on your uninjured leg, tie a resistance band around your ankle and slowly flex your hip up and then release it back down.
For knee extension: The leg extension machine in the gym works well for this or you could tie a band around your ankle in sitting and extend your knee against its resistance.
For squat control: Yip, it’s quite easy to guess – squats and lunges and step ups are all examples that can be used for this.
Here are some more resistance bands options from TheraBand.
During the early stages of treatment everyone’s rehab programme may look quite similar, but it’s important to make the exercises sport specific during the later stages. A footballer and rugby player for example has to be able to forcefully kick a ball and you have to prepare and train the quad to a high enough level to be able to do that. So working on explosive open chain knee extension is super important for them. For someone who does jumping sports, you would want to pay special attention on force production and landing in squat type movements as well as plyometrics that mirror movement that they would have to use in their sport.
You may also be interested in reading this article where I give some tips with regards to your quads and injury prevention.
Let me know if you have any questions. Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult me online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.
About the Author
Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.