Quadriceps Injury

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Steven Doerr, MD
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

Quadriceps Injury Sign


Limping refers to any type of difficulty that occurs while walking. Limping can be considered to be a form of walking that favors the use of one leg over another and is most commonly due to diseases of or damage to the legs and feet, including all of the structures such as muscles, bones, joints, blood vessels, and nerves that make up the lower extremities.

Limping can result from either an acute (having a recent onset) or chronic (long-term) condition. Injuries such as bone fractures, sprains, and strains are common causes of limping.

Quadriceps injury facts

  • The quadriceps is made up of four muscles that are located on the front of the thigh.
  • The muscle is responsible for flexing the hip and extending or straightening the knee.
  • Injuries may include the following:
    • Contusion from a direct blow
    • Strain from overuse
    • Partial tear of the muscle
    • Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon)
    • Tendinosis (degeneration and scarring of the tendon from repetitive injury)
    • Tendon rupture
    • Compartment syndrome from increased pressure due to bleeding from a contusion, crush injury, or fracture
  • The diagnosis of most quadriceps injures can be made at the bedside.
  • Treatment most often involves RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), and sometimes physical therapy is needed to help regain range of motion and muscle strength.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair tendon ruptures, muscle herniation, and to relieve compartment syndrome.

What are the quadriceps?

The quadriceps are located in the front of the thigh and are responsible for extending (straightening) the knee, as well as flexing the hip. It is made up of four muscles:

  • Vastus medialis
  • Vastus intermedius
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Rectus femoris

The rectus femoris begins with its attachment to the ilium, one of the pelvic bones and then crosses the hip. As it runs down the front of the thigh, the muscle portion of the rectus transitions to become a tendon and joins the tendons of the three vastus muscles to form the quadriceps tendon, just above the kneecap (patella). The tendon is renamed the patellar tendon as it crosses the knee joint and attaches to the tibial tubercle, the bony prominence on the tibia (shinbone).

The quadriceps muscles are contained within a fascia compartment, a sheet of fibrous connective tissue, along with the femoral artery and the femoral nerve.

Illustration of the anatomy of the legs
Illustration of the anatomy of the legs
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/17/2016

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