Causes Of A Common Sports Injury: Quadricep Tears

Matt Adams of the St. Louis Cardinals tore his quadriceps tendon on May 26 and underwent surgery last Friday. The first basemen tore his quadriceps running between first and second base, and left the game shortly afterwards.

The MRI showed a tear, however surgical intervention showed the extent of the injury was more severe than expected. Matt will be out of baseball for 3-4 months to heal and recover.

The quadriceps tendon works the muscles in the front of the thigh – to straighten and extend the knee. Although anyone can tear the quadriceps tendon, it is most common in middle aged individuals who are in running or jumping sports. Because the quadriceps tendon functions in an “explosive nature” in high level activities, athletes are more prone to this type of tear.

Generally speaking, a tendon is more susceptible to tearing when it is weakened. Often times, it is due to tendonitis or chronic inflammation of the tendon. This is called quadriceps tendonitis and can develop into a chronic condition. With tendonitis, the tendon becomes inflamed and doesn’t function as effectively when strained. It then becomes swollen, and doesn’t have as much tensile strength which is predisposes it to more serious injury.

Physical Therapy can treat tendonitis conditions which can help prevent tears. While it is unknown if Matt Adams had tendonitis prior to his quadriceps tear, many athletes develop tendonitis.

Some initial signs of quadriceps tendonitis are:

  • Swelling and tenderness over the tendon ( located just above the kneecap)
  • Increased discomfort of the quadriceps and knee during sporting activities, especially running and jumping
  • Relief with rest
  • Dull achiness and clicking in the joint

Physical Therapy looks to effectively reduce inflammation of the tendon and joint with specific stretching and strengthening activities. Physical therapists also evaluate the entire lower leg which can sometimes offer clues on how the body maybe contributing to abnormal mechanics during sport, therefore creating tendonitis symptoms.

Since surgery, Matt Adams will continue to be in a brace for a period of time to allow the tendon to heal, and then will begin rehabilitation to increase his knee motion and restore strength. The expected timeframe for this would be about 3-4 months.

For more information on a quadriceps tendon tear or tendonitis, please contact us at