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Quadriceps Contusion

The play called for Will, the team's wide receiver, to catch the ball out in the flat, where he could use his speed to get by the man covering him. This time, however, the other team's cornerback read the play perfectly and got a clean shot at Will, driving his shoulder pad into Will's right thigh. Will felt a sharp pain that continued as he lay on the ground after the play, and he needed his teammates to help him off the field.

After the game, Will was still having trouble walking properly and his thigh still hurt. His dad took him to the emergency room, where the doctor told Will he had a grade 2 quadriceps contusion and would be out of action for a couple of weeks.

What Is a Quadriceps Contusion?

Your quadriceps are muscles at the front of your leg that help flex your hip and straighten your knee when you walk or run. These muscles are attached to your femur, or thighbone, so a direct blow to the thigh can crush them against the bone. The resulting injury can be quite painful and, in some cases, serious.


The two types of quadriceps contusion are:

  1. An intramuscular contusion, which is when a muscle tears within the sheath (lining) that surrounds it.
  2. An intermuscular contusion, which happens when the muscle and the sheath surrounding it both tear.

Quadriceps contusions are common in sports that involve a lot of direct contact, such as football and hockey. They're also a risk in sports where there's a chance of collisions, like soccer and lacrosse. And they can happen in sports like skateboarding, skiing, and snowboarding, where there is a chance your thigh might strike an object if you wipe out.

What Are the Symptoms?

You'll know immediately if you get a quadriceps contusion. They hurt a lot. But you won't be able to tell right away how severe it is — and knowing that helps you get the right treatment.

Doctors give quadriceps contusions a grade from 1–3 depending on how serious they are. Each grade has its own symptoms:

It's good to get your injury checked by a doctor, even if you feel sure you have mild quadriceps contusion. That's because a quadriceps contusion can sometimes lead to other problems:

What Do Doctors Do?

If a doctor thinks you have a quadriceps contusion, he or she will check to see which type it is (intramuscular or intermuscular) as well as what grade.

The doctor will examine your thigh and may press on it or massage it to see how tender it is. The doctor will ask what happened to cause the injury and what symptoms you're feeling. You'll probably also be asked to bend your knee to see if your range of motion is limited.

If the injury seems serious or doesn't get better after treatment for a few weeks, the doctor may call for an MRI scan to determine the extent of the tear and check for other problems.

What Causes a Quadriceps Contusion?

If you get a quadriceps contusion, there'll be no mistaking the cause. Something ― a football helmet, another player's knee, a railing at a skatepark ― will hit you very hard in the leg. This is why quadriceps contusions are common in sports that involve contact or the potential for a collision.

If the impact crushes your muscles against your thighbone (femur), they can start to tear and bleed. That can cause pain and swelling. If the injury is an intramuscular contusion, where the bleeding is contained within the muscle sheath, you might not notice much bruising at first. But if the sheath tears along with the muscle (intermuscular contusion), it can cause considerable bruising and discoloration in your thigh.

Can I Prevent a Quadriceps Contusion?

It can be hard to prevent a quadriceps contusion, since they happen suddenly and can be difficult to see coming.

But you can make this type of injury less likely by following a few simple guidelines when you play sports:

Treating a Quadriceps Contusion

Grade 1 contusions will require little more than rest and some gentle stretching to heal, and they won't be much of a problem. Grade 2 and 3 contusions will probably require more treatment. If you have pain, ask your doctor about which pain relievers you can take.

Some of the things you can do to treat a quadriceps contusion include:

Call your doctor right away if you notice these signs of compartment syndrome:

A few people may need surgery to fix a quadriceps contusion. Surgery is rare, but it might be needed if there's a complete muscle tear or if a quadriceps contusion doesn't heal properly. Doctors also may recommend surgery if myositis ossificans affects a person's range of motion or irritates nerves or veins.

If you get a quadriceps contusion, you'll most likely go back to your normal activities after a few weeks of rest. But because of the possible complications, a quadriceps contusion isn't something you want to mess with. Be sure a doctor clears you to play before you start getting active again.

Date reviewed: November 2014

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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