How to treat a quadriceps injury
Qualified remedial massage and anatomy specialist Kevin James explains what to do if you are concerned you have strained your quads
As with all types of muscle injuries, there are varying degrees of severity. In the case of the quadriceps, injury is graded generally from a Grade 1 strain up to a Grade 3 rupture. If the quads are not painful until you fully straighten the leg out, it would indicate a Grade 1 strain.
First and foremost, for the initial 48 hours apply RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and if possible try to keep the injured leg in a flexed position, relieving any undue stress.
Once 48 hours are up try to see a sports massage therapist, who will carry out R.O.M. examination and apply soft tissue massage to help encourage muscle repair. The therapist will also advise on rehab exercises. Above all in these early stages, avoid activity whereby lower leg strength and power are required, which will aggravate the strain. After about 3-5 days post-injury carry out the following set of exercises:
- Static inner quadricep contraction: sitting on the floor with legs straight out in front, tighten your quad as if attempting to push your knee into the floor, and hold for 10 secs. Relax and repeat.
- Straight leg raise: tighten quadricep, dorsal flex foot, raise leg, hold then return to the floor.
- νBridge-lie on mat with knees raised and feet flat on floor. Raise body into bridge position, hold for 10 secs then return to lying flat once again.
Repeat each exercise for 10-15 reps, three times a day. Ensure the injured quad is warm prior to stretching and use a heat pad. Stop exercising if you feel any pain or discomfort, and don’t increase intensity/frequency by more than 10% per week.
Finally, to prevent further similar injuries in the future there are a number of steps you can take:
- Devise a year-round strength and conditioning routine suited to your training and race plan. See a PT or coach for some extra help.
- Don’t train when you’re overtired, and listen to your body.
- Try to get some regular sports massage for maintenance, and if this isn’t possible buying a foam roller and performing self-massage is a good alternative.
Involved in triathlon for 25 years, qualified remedial massage and anatomy specialist Kevin James works as a sports therapist with both age-groupers and elites, including the GB Triathlon Team.