Physical Therapy oftentimes addresses musculoskeletal injuries. One recent injury that a high school soccer player of mine had was a quadriceps tear. It can be a subtle injury that can be difficult to detect … until it’s not, which is when my patient’s dad sent him to me for Physical Therapy treatment.
A strain in the quadriceps is a macro tear that can either result from repetitive micro trauma, or it can be a single occurrence, like a blunt trauma. With micro tears, there would not be as much pain as the quad would feel more like muscle soreness during use, like in overusing the muscle when working out.
With a single incident, like in the case of my athlete, you would feel significant pain, along with swelling and inflammation. He actually had a significant contusion to his thigh from another player’s knee (the blunt trauma). He then created a quad tear by continuing to play and practice with the damaged tissue (repetitive micro trauma from the muscle tissue not effectively working). He complained that it felt like a ‘dead spot’, but unfortunately his coaches had him continue play. The biggest marker in his Grade II (moderate) tear, was the inability to use the muscle and the significant pain and swelling in the injured tissue.
Either way, you will want to get immediate treatment, because a delay could extend recovery from a few weeks to a few months.
Initial treatment includes non-weight-bearing rest, icing, elevation, and compression (wrapping up to minimize swelling). If a tissue is injured and has to bear weight, the compression provides a splint that minimizes pain and adds support.
When you can contract the muscle with minimal pain (contraction of the quad straightens your knee) and when you can weight-bear with minimal pain, we will begin strengthening exercises and flexibility exercises.
These would include doing quad setting, squats, and active knee extension It will be about 2-3 months to get back to normal and return to play at 100%.
The quadriceps would eventually heal on its own, but without Physical Therapy treatment it would be weak and the function wouldn’t be normal. There are many compensatory mechanisms so I definitely recommend that you seek a Physical Therapist out for treatment to restore normal function and increase performance.