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Quadriceps Tendon Tear

What is the quadriceps tendon?

The quadriceps tendon is a robust fibrous structure located at the front of the knee joint, connecting the quadriceps muscles to the patella (kneecap). Comprised of the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris muscles, the quadriceps tendon plays a critical role in knee extension and stability. During activities such as running, jumping, and climbing stairs, the quadriceps muscles contract, pulling on the quadriceps tendon to straighten the knee joint. This tendon acts as a powerful lever, facilitating movements essential for various daily activities and athletic endeavors. Injuries to the quadriceps tendon, such as tears or ruptures, can significantly impair knee function and mobility, often requiring prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment to restore normal function and prevent long-term complications.

What is a quadriceps tendon tear?

Quadriceps tendon tears are significant injuries that can severely impact knee function and mobility. The quadriceps tendon is a strong fibrous structure that connects the quadriceps muscles to the patella (kneecap) and plays a crucial role in extending the knee joint. When this tendon tears, it can lead to pain, swelling, weakness, and difficulty straightening the knee. In this comprehensive overview, we will delve into the causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and rehabilitation of quadriceps tendon tears.

What causes quadriceps tendon tears?

Quadriceps tendon tears often occur due to sudden, forceful contraction of the quadriceps muscles, particularly during activities such as jumping, landing, or direct impact to the knee. These injuries are more common in individuals over 40 years old, particularly males, and are frequently associated with factors such as chronic degenerative changes, systemic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease, corticosteroid use, or previous knee surgery. In younger individuals, quadriceps tendon tears may occur as a result of trauma or sports-related injuries.

What are the symptoms of quadriceps tendon tears?

The symptoms of a quadriceps tendon tear typically include sudden, severe pain in the front of the knee, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight or straightening the affected leg. Patients may report a popping or tearing sensation at the time of injury, followed by weakness and instability in the knee joint. In some cases, a visible gap or indentation may be present at the top of the kneecap where the tendon has detached.

How are quadriceps tendon tears diagnosed?

Diagnosing a quadriceps tendon tear involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies. During the physical examination, Dr. Shane J. Nho will assess the appearance and function of the knee, looking for signs of swelling, bruising, and loss of knee extension strength. SImaging studies such as X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are typically ordered to confirm the diagnosis, evaluate the extent of the tear, and assess for associated injuries such as patellar fractures or cartilage damage.

At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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