Thigh Strain

Due to the intensive training regime that footballers follow and the demands placed on their bodies during matches, muscles are at risk from becoming torn, stretched and strained, especially in the lower half of the body.

What Causes a Thigh Strain?

A strain occurs when one of the quadriceps at the front of the thigh is torn. The quadriceps are made up of 4 muscles: Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius and Vastus Medialis. These muscles are responsible for extending and contracting the knee. When too much force is applied to the quadriceps during exercise, a muscle tear (or strain) can develop. This injury commonly occurs in football if the thigh muscles are overstretched when sprinting or kicking the ball.

Strains vary in severity from a 1st to a 3rd degree strain:

  • 1st degree strains only involve a few of the muscle fibres becoming damaged. Effects of the injury may not be felt until after the match and can include muscle cramp, tightness in the muscle and pain when extending or bending the leg.
  • 2nd degree strains affect a larger amount of muscle fibres and the effects will be felt straight away. The pain will be more acute, walking will be difficult, the muscle may throb when exerted and will probably be sore to touch.
  • 3rd degree strains result in a complete rupture of the thigh muscle. A sharp pain will be felt immediately and it will be incredibly painful to walk. The thigh may also look indented and have a lump above where the tear has occurred. Internal bleeding may cause extensive bruising to the affected area.

Prevention of Thigh Strains

Players are more likely to suffer a thigh strain if the muscles are tight, so they should ensure they maintain a good level of strength and flexibility. Having strong, flexible muscles gives players much more control over their movements, making them less likely to suffer from strains. Stretching and warming up properly loosens the muscles and increases their temperature by a couple of degrees, which lessens the chances of getting a strain.

Treatment for Thigh Strains

Treatment depends on the severity of the strain. Regardless of how serious it is though, players should use the rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE) treatment immediately after sustaining the injury to reduce pain and swelling, lessening the chances of it getting worse. Players may recover from a 1st degree strain by avoiding exercise for 3 weeks, whereas for a 2nd degree strain 4-6 weeks of rest is required. For more serious 3rd degree strains, surgery may be necessary to repair the rupture. 3 months of rehabilitation usually follows the surgery, during which players will do gentle resistance exercises, which gradually restore the thigh muscle to its full strength. 

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