Thigh Strain : Running Injuries

The constant flexing and bending of the knee during running puts a lot of pressure on the thigh muscles (quadriceps), especially if you are suffering from muscular imbalance and over-pronation, which makes the thigh muscles have to work even harder. Thus could lead to the overworked muscles becoming strained or torn.

What are the Quadriceps?

The quadriceps are a group a four muscles situated in the thigh: the vastus medialis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis. The quadriceps cross the hip and knee joints, working in conjunction with the hamstrings to bend and flex the knee.

What Causes a Thigh Strain?

The quadriceps are put under a great deal of stress during running, especially if you overtrain or suffer from over-pronation. It is also often caused by an imbalance of strength between the quadriceps and hamstrings. If the hamstrings at the back of the leg are much stronger than the quadriceps at the front of the leg, a strain or tear can occur. This is normally the case amongst runners because their hamstrings tend to be more developed than their quadriceps. In general sprinters are more likely to suffer from this type of injury. There are 3 different grades of thigh strain, ranging from a mild pull to a complete rupture of the muscle.

What are the Symptoms of a Thigh Strain?

    • A grade 1 strain: Runners may not realise they have strained the muscle until after they have stopped training. You may feel cramp or tightness in the muscle and slight pain when bending and flexing the leg
    • A grade 2 strain: You will feel pain as soon as you sustain the injury and it will be more severe. It will be painful when you walk and sore to the touch.
    • A grade 3 strain: This results in the muscle being completely ruptured. You will experience a sudden, sharp pain and walking will be painful. There may be a depression in the thigh where the tear has occurred and a lump above the depression. Bruising will probably appear within a couple of days.

How Can You Prevent a Thigh Strain?

Warming up and cooling down before and after training sessions greatly reduces the risk of injury. If you don’t warm up properly the muscles will be tight and more prone to injury. To further prevent thigh strains it is a good idea to incorporate exercises into your training regime that will increase the strength and flexibility of the quadriceps. Muscles will also be less prone to injury if you stay hydrated and have an adequate supply for carbohydrates to keep your muscles energised. Fatigued muscles are more vulnerable to damage.

How is a Thigh Strain Treated?

Immediately after sustaining the injury, the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method of treatment should be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Rest is very important because if you continue to train when you have a slight injury, you could end up making the strain a lot worse. A grade 1 strain should be rested for 3 weeks and a grade 2 strain for 4-6 weeks. Grade 3 strains result in substantial damage to the muscle fibres and surgery may be required. Rehabilitation following surgery may take up to 3 months. Physiotherapy will speed up the recovery process. It will begin with gentle stretching and resistance exercises before progressing on to core strength and stability exercises when the quadriceps are a bit stronger.

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