A pulled quadriceps muscle needs its time to heal, especially if it’s a grade III injury.

There are three grades of injury for a pulled quad: I, II and III.

Symptoms of a Pulled Quad

• Pain
• Loss of strength and mobility
• Swelling
• Bruising

What exactly is a “pulled” quad muscle?

“Muscle strains involve tearing or stretching of the muscle fibers,” says Jessalynn Adam, MD, who specializes in primary care sports medicine with Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

“The most common instance is when the muscle is contracting while lengthening, such as in an excessive eccentric contraction,” continues Dr. Adam.

“An example of this is a hamstring strain in a runner due to the rapid extension of the leg.”

What is eccentric contraction?
This term is well-known among muscle-building athletes: the “negative” or release phase of a weightlifting motion.

• The descent phase of a barbell squat
• The lowering phase of a floor leg press
• The downward motion on a quadricep extension machine

A quad pull can also occur during hard running.

So in general, a person who makes sudden and forceful leg movements (also such as those in volleyball, basketball, tennis, soccer, football and martial arts) may pull a quadricep.

Being fatigued and dehydrated add to the risk. The risk (especially of a grade III injury) is much greater in those who run during sports activity than in bodybuilding or weightlifting.

• Grade I – pain and strength loss are mild.
• Grade II – pain and strength loss are moderate.
• Grade III – pain is severe, along with complete loss of strength.

Time It Takes to Heal a Pulled Quad Muscle

Dr. Adam explains, “A strain, or pulled muscle, usually resolves in 4-6 weeks, depending on the severity. More serious, higher grade strains can take 8-10 weeks or more.”

A grade I injury may be resolved in one or two weeks if enough rest is taken.

How to Ensure Proper Healing of a Pulled Quad

• Take a break from quad-centric movements such as running, squats, jumping and even brisk walking. Your doctor or physical therapist will guide you in the restrictions.

• If there’s swelling, apply an ice pack for no longer than 15 minutes, 2-3 times a day.

• Compression to control swelling is also recommended. Your doctor or PT will tell you how to apply this.

• The leg also needs to be elevated above heart level to help drain the excess blood that’s pooled in the injury site.

• If the injury requires physical therapy, your PT will also give you stretches and guidelines for these, for which you should apply light heat prior. The PT may also have you do special exercises.

Prevention of a Pulled Quad

Dr. Adams says to “be sure to warm up properly. A controlled eccentric strengthening can help to strengthen and lengthen the muscle to protect from injury.”

Two Exercises for Controlled Eccentric Strengthening

Leg Extension

Leg Press

You can’t rush the healing time of a pulled quad muscle, especially a severe pull. Follow your doctor’s or PT’s instructions, and be patient.

Dr. Adam specializes in the care of athletes and active individuals of all ages, offering prevention, diagnosis and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. Dr. Adam’s care focuses on muscle injuries and biomechanics.