A rectus femoris is a common injury among athletes. In
this article, Dr Ralph Rogers discusses what it is, how it happens and the
best way to treat the injury and rehabilitate the athlete.
is the rectus femoris muscle?
The rectus femoris
muscle is one of four quadriceps muscles and is composed of fibers appropriate
for rapid forceful activity. Its characteristics may explain why this muscle is
particularly vulnerable to eccentric stress forces and injured in forceful
movements such as when starting to sprint or kicking a ball.
happens when the rectus femoris muscle is injured?
When the rectus femoris
is strained or tears the player immediately feels pain at the top of the thigh,
and in extreme cases there is a noticeable defect when the muscle is completely
torn. Fortunately complete tears are rare. An MRI scan is normally requested to
determine the extent of the injury.
The treatment of an injured rectus femoris muscle
Immediately apply the of
RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) to the thigh. I often use
a “Myotrain” Brace from Bauerfeind, which provides cryotherapy and compression.
The aim of this treatment is to reduce bleeding and damage within the muscle,
which is an important part of the healing process. In addition, it helps to
make the player more comfortable immediately after the injury. Depending on how
much pain the player is experiencing simple pain killers like Paracetamol may
be used, although try to avoid non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (Volterol
of the rectus femoris muscle
Once the swelling has
reduced and movement has been restored enough that the player can move around
with a normal gait and range of motion, the player has recovered from the acute
phase of the injury. Now is a good time to exercise the quadriceps muscles, but
without inflicting additional damage or stress. This is usually on an exercise
bike or swimming, exercises where the body is supported and the weight kept off
From here gentle
resistance exercises and thigh stretching is important as this helps 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. Finally, core strength and stability exercises can improve
muscle function across the trunk and pelvis, which can help reduce the risk of
re-injury. Recovery must be closely monitored, so that improvements can be
noted and the program altered to aid the recovery process.