Quadriceps Tendon Tear

Quadriceps tendon tears occur in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the quadriceps muscles in the thigh. The quadriceps tendon is what straightens the knee from a bent position. A complete tear of the quadriceps tendon is a disabling injury that usually requires surgery to repair full function of the knee.


Quadriceps tendon tears often occur in trauma to the knee, such as an awkward landing from a jump. It also occurs in a direct strike or laceration to the front of the knee. Factors such as tendinitis, chronic disease, and steroid use can weaken the tendons and contribute to tears. In some cases, immobilization for an extended period can also result in loss of strength and tears in the quadriceps tendon.


Quadriceps tendon tears are painful and result in swelling, bruising, and tenderness. When the tendon completely ruptures, a tearing and popping sensation is usually felt. Walking and straightening the knee from a bent position will not be possible. In some cases, an indentation at the top of the knee will be visible due to the kneecap moving downward.


Physicians will conduct a physical examination and discuss symptoms you are experiencing. You will be asked to extend and straighten the knee to properly identify a quadriceps tendon tear. A side view x-ray may be used to identify an out of place kneecap caused by a quadriceps tendon tear.


Treatment will depend on the severity of the quadriceps tendon tear, activity levels, and age. Small tears can usually be treated with rest and physical therapy. In a complete tear or rupture, surgery will be required to reattach the torn tendon to the kneecap. Physical therapy will also be required following surgery.

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