Quadriceps Tendon Tear

Tendons are the strong cords of tissue that attach your muscles to your bones. Your quadriceps tendon works with the muscles in the front of your thigh to straighten your leg. A small tear can make it difficult to walk and participate in daily activities while a large tear is completely disabling.

Quadriceps tears are not very common injuries. However, they tend to occur in middle-aged people who play running or jumping sports.


A quadriceps tendon tear can be partial or complete. Most tears are partial tears that don’t completely disrupt the soft tissue. A way to visualize this type of tear is to think of a rope that is stretched far enough that it begins to fray, but it remains in one piece. 

Meanwhile, a complete tear splits the soft tissue into two distinct pieces. This means the muscle is no longer connected to the kneecap. Without the attachment, the knee is not able to straighten when the muscles in the quadriceps contract.

Quadriceps Tendon Tear Causes

The most common cause of a quadriceps tear is a heavy load being placed on the knee with the foot planted and the knee partially bent. An awkward landing after a jump in basketball is one example. The force of landing is more than the tendon can handle, causing it to tear. These tears can also be caused by falls, a direct force to the front of the knee, and a cut.

A weakened tendon is more likely to tear. Tendinitis, chronic disease, steroid use, and immobilization can cause your tendon to become weakened.

  • Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendon causes it to weaken. This is most common in people who run or participate in sports requiring jumping.
  • Chronic disease: Diseases that disrupt the blood supply can also weaken your tendons. These diseases include chronic renal failure, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and more.
  • Steroid use: Corticosteroid use has been linked to increased tendon weakness.
  • Immobilization: Spending long periods of time off of your feet can cause the tendons supporting your knee to lose strength. 

Quadriceps Tendon Tear Symptoms

When you experience a quadriceps tendon tear, you will often feel an immediate tearing or popping sensation. Then, you are likely to experience pain and swelling. In some cases, you might not be able to straighten your knee. Some other symptoms you could experience are:

  • An indentation at the top of your kneecap where your tendon tore
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Cramping
  • A sagging or drooping of the kneecap
  • Difficulty walking because the knee buckles or gives way

Quadriceps Tendon Tear Treatment

Nonsurgical or surgical treatments may be recommended based on the severity of your tendon tear.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Most partial tears do well with nonsurgical treatment approaches. These generally include immobilization and physical therapy. Your doctor might recommend that you wear a knee brace or knee immobilizer to help keep your knee straight. You will probably need crutches so you do not put all of your weight on your leg. After the initial pain and swelling has decreased, you may begin physical therapy. They will prescribe specific exercises that will help restore strength and range of motion in and around your knee.

Surgical Treatment

Complete tears generally require surgery in order to repair the tendon. The procedure reattaches the torn tendon to the top of the kneecap. Those who do need surgery tend to do better if the surgery takes place soon after the injury. If it is done earlier, it may prevent the tendon from scarring and tightening in a shortened position.

The procedure is done by placing sutures in the tendon and threading them through drill holes in the kneecap. The sutures are then carefully tied at the bottom of the kneecap to get the right amount of tension. The surgeon will also ensure that the position of the kneecap matches your other kneecap as closely as possible.

Repairing Quadriceps Tendon Tears at OAR

If you think you have experienced a quadriceps tendon tear, get in touch with the experienced team at OAR for the best treatment. We will make sure you get the care that you need to get back on your feet.