A pulled or strained quadriceps muscle can be identified by a pain in the front of the thigh. A severe tear is abrupt, sudden, and results in acute pain during the activity (often sprinting) and may be accompanied by swelling or bruises on the thigh.
Typically, a pulled quad is the result of a strength imbalance between the quadriceps and the hamstring group, where the hamstrings are more powerful. This is a common muscular imbalance in runners, because running tends to use the hamstrings more than the quadriceps.
For immediatetreatment, use the R.I.C.E. treatment plan. Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation are the best immediate treatment for all pulls and strains. Once activity is started again, ice the muscle after exercise to reduce any swelling. An anti-inflammatory can be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation. After applying the ice, wrap your thigh in an ACE bandage to keep it compressed.
Once you are able to use your leg without pain, you can begin a slow jogging program and avoid any sudden accelerations and sprints. Pay attention to signs of pain or increased tenderness, and reduce exercise if any develops. Proper stretching of the quadriceps is essential. Recovery typically occurs within two or three weeks.
The way to prevent this injury is to strengthen the quadriceps muscles, warm up thoroughly before exercise and stretch regularly. Quad extensions, squats, biking and stair climbing are all worthwhile exercises for runners to use as cross training.