Thigh Muscle Strain Injury Explained

A Thigh muscle strain is quite common in sports like football, where kicking is repeatedly practiced. A Thigh muscle strain refers to a tear in the Quadriceps muscle group. The Quadriceps are located at the front of the thigh and are responsible for extending (straightening) the knee. The Quadriceps group is made up of four muscles: Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius and Vastus Medialis.

Anatomy of thigh strain

Usually, the muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue becomes torn during an activity such as sprinting or kicking a ball. A tear in a Thigh muscle is referred to as a Thigh strain and depending on its severity it is classified as a first, second or third degree strain:

  • a first degree strain is damage to a few muscle fibres
  • a second degree strain is damage to a more extensive number of muscle fibres
  • a third degree strain is a complete rupture of the muscle itself

Thigh Muscle Strain Signs & Symptoms

With a grade one Thigh strain the signs may not be present until after the activity is over. There may be a sensation of cramp or Thigh tightness and a slight feeling of pain when the muscles are stretched or contracted.

With a grade two Thigh strain there is immediate pain which is more severe than the pain of a grade one injury and produces pain on walking. It is confirmed by pain on stretch and contraction of the muscle. A grade two Thigh strain is usually sore to touch.

A grade three Thigh strain is a complete rupture of a muscle and is a serious injury. There is immediate burning or stabbing pain and the athlete is unable to walk without pain. Often there is a depression in the thigh at the location of the tear and a lump above the depression. After a few days with grade two and three injuries a large bruise will appear below the injury site caused by bleeding within the tissues.

Thigh Muscle Strain Treatment

The immediate treatment for a Thigh muscle injury consists of rest, ice, and compression (never apply ice directly to the skin). This is aimed at reducing the bleeding and damage within the muscle tissue. Resting may be the common sense approach, but it is one that is often ignored by competitive athletes. This is unwise, since it does not take much to turn a grade one Thigh strain into a grade two, or a grade two Thigh strain into a grade three. As a general rule, grade one Thigh strains should be rested from sporting activity for about 3 weeks, and grade two Thigh strains for about 4 to 6 weeks. In the case of a complete rupture the Thigh muscle will have to be repaired surgically and the rehabilitation afterwards will take about 3 months.

Regardless of the severity of the Thigh injury, the treatment in the early stages is the same. The thigh should be rested in an elevated position, with an Ice Pack applied for twenty minutes every two hours, and a Compression Bandage applied. This should help to limit bleeding and swelling in the tissues. After the early days have been spent resting more active rehabilitation can be started.

Gentle resistance exercises and thigh stretching are important as they help to align the scar tissue that forms during the healing process. By aligning the scar tissue along the normal lines of stress the tensile strength of the Thigh muscle is enhanced.

At first gentle resistance is provided by a therapist, but as the Thigh muscle gets stronger then Resistance Bands can provide more of a challenge. The sets and repetitions are gradually increased and eventually Core strengthening can be started.

Core Strength and Core Stability exercises can improve muscle function across the trunk and pelvis and this can reduce the risk of Hamstring injury. Core strength exercises on a Gym Mat using a Swiss Ball and Resistance Bands are ideal. Once Core Strength and Hamstring strength are improved, then a return to functional activity is possible. With a grade one Hamstring strain gentle jogging can be initiated between seven and nine days after injury and straight line sprinting is usually started after 3 weeks. Many people find that Warm Pants (Compression Shorts) or a Thigh Support provide reassurance during this active rehabilitation.

Guide to Core Strengthening

Thigh Muscle Strain Prevention

The following measures may have the effect of reducing the chances of sustaining a muscle strain:

  • Warm up prior to matches and training is thought to decrease muscle stretch injuries because the muscle is more extensible when the tissue temperature has been increased by one or two degrees. A good warm up should last at least twenty minutes, starting gently and finishing at full pace activity. Practicing sport specific activities helps tune coordination and prepare mentally for competition. Warm Pants (Compression Shorts) or a Thigh Support can help to retain muscle temperature and are very for the prevention of thigh muscle injuries.
    Professional Warm Up Guide
  • Recovery after training sessions and matches can be enhanced by performing a cool down. This is thought to help muscles get rid of waste products. This is also the ideal time to do stretching exercises.
    Professional Cool Down Guide
  • Maintaining good muscle strength and flexibility may help prevent muscle strains. Muscle strength allows a player to carry out match activities in a controlled manner and decreases the uncoordinated movements that can lead to injury.
  • Tight muscles are associated with strains. Stretching on a Gym Mat is helpful to maintain muscle length and prevent injury.
    Guide to Stretching Exercises
  • Diet can have an affect on muscle injuries. If a player's diet is high in carbohydrate in the 48 hours before a match there will be a adequate supply of the energy that is necessary for muscle contractions. However, if the muscles become short of fuel then fatigue can set in during training or matches. This fatigue can predispose a player to injury. Carbohydrate and fluids can be replenished during training and matches by taking Energy Gels and Energy Bars.



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