Acute quadriceps muscle strains: magnetic resonance imaging features and prognosis

Am J Sports Med. Apr-May 2004;32(3):710-9. doi: 10.1177/0363546503261734.


Background: There has been no research examining the magnetic resonance imaging findings, and in turn the prognosis, for a series of acute quadriceps muscle strains.

Hypothesis: The magnetic resonance imaging findings of acute quadriceps muscle strain injuries are helpful in predicting their prognosis.

Study design: Causal-comparative study.

Method: Forty professional players of Australian Rules football were followed over 3 years. Magnetic resonance imaging examinations were performed within 24 to 72 hours of muscle-strain injury. Imaging features of muscle strain injury included the anatomical location, size (cross-sectional area and length), and site (proximal, middle, or distal). The time from injury to return to full training was termed the rehabilitation interval.

Results: 25 clinical quadriceps muscle strain injuries occurred, with 15 cases involving the rectus femoris. The rectus femoris injuries could be further categorized into cases with straining about the central tendon (n = 7, mean rehabilitation interval = 26.9 days) or cases with straining in the periphery (n = 8, mean rehabilitation interval = 9.2 days). Six cases involved one of the vastus muscles (mean rehabilitation interval = 4.4 days). Three players had normal magnetic resonance imaging examinations (mean rehabilitation interval = 5.7 days).

Conclusions: The rectus femoris-central tendon injury is the red flag diagnosis associated with a significantly longer rehabilitation interval.

Clinical relevance: Magnetic resonance imaging is helpful in predicting the prognosis for acute quadriceps strains.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Sprains and Strains / diagnosis*
  • Sprains and Strains / rehabilitation
  • Thigh / injuries*