Rectus femoris is a muscle which belongs to the group of quadriceps muscles and is one of the powerful muscles in that group. Rupture of the rectus femoris tendon, which is located at the top of the muscle close to the hip, can occur as a result of explosive loads or overuse of that muscle.

Causes of Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

The rectus femoris muscle is one of the large quadriceps muscles which travel down the middle of the anterior region of the thigh. Rectus femoris muscle is a biaxial muscle, which means that it crosses two joints, namely the hip and knee joint. This muscle helps in straightening the knee or lifting up the knee. So, when a person does some explosive activity, such as jumping or kicking, then large forces are passed through the muscle putting stress on it. The rectus femoris tendon can rupture or become inflamed in upper region close to where it originates at the hip. The primary cause of rectus femoris tendon rupture is overuse through movements, such as kicking or other explosive movements, such as seen in sprint starts.

Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

Signs & Symptoms of Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

  • Patient with ruptured rectus femoris tendon experiences sharp pain which starts suddenly at the anterior region of the hip or in the groin, commonly when doing some type of explosive activity.
  • In patients with rectus femoris tendon rupture, there may also be swelling and bruising, especially when lifting up the knee against resistance. Tenderness is felt upon pressure at the muscle attachment at the anterior side of the hip.
  • If the patient has had a complete rupture of the rectus femoris tendon then he/she will not be able to contract the muscle.

Treatment for Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

  • In patients with Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon, rest is important and patient should take complete rest till the doctor advises further.
  • Application of cold therapy along with compression should be initiated immediately in patients with Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon. Ice should be wrapped in a towel and applied for around 15 minutes for every hour for the initial 24 hours in the acute stage. As the symptoms decrease, the frequency of ice therapy can be reduced to twice or thrice a day.
  • Therapies, such as laser therapy and ultrasound treatment, help in alleviating pain and inflammation along with encouraging the healing process of Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon.
  • After the acute stage of Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon has passed, sports massage can be given by a professional. Patients with Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon can benefit from both cross friction massage to the tendon and deep tissue massage for relaxing the muscle.
  • Surgery for Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon is required if there has been a complete tear of the tendon in order to repair it.
  • After complete healing of Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon is achieved, patient should enroll in a full rehabilitation program comprising of strengthening and stretching exercises along with sports specific functional exercises. These exercises will help in improving the patient's flexibility, endurance and strength and will also help the patient in returning to his/her full fitness level after recovering from Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon.
  • If there has been a partial rupture of rectus femoris tendon, then it can lead to inflammation after healing of the initial rupture. Groin injuries can be avoided, by ensuring that the muscles are flexible and strong via doing stretching and strengthening exercises.

Rehabilitation of Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

Surgery is required in cases of complete rupture of rectus femoris tendon. After the surgery, patient should start a full rehabilitation program. The main goal of a rehab program is to reduce inflammation and pain associated with Ruptured Rectus Femoris Tendon along with improving or maintaining strength and flexibility of the muscles before gradually returning to complete fitness.

Reducing Swelling & Pain Associated with Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

  • If there has been a complete rupture of rectus femoris tendon, then treatment comprises of surgery.
  • Patient suffering from rupture of rectus femoris tendon needs complete rest. This includes avoiding activities which produce pain.
  • Ice therapy along with compression should be done for 15 minutes for every couple of hours in the initial acute stage of ruptured rectus femoris tendon that is the first 48 hours. The frequency of application can be reduced after that as the pain and swelling subside.
  • As the healing of ruptured rectus femoris tendon progresses, application of heat therapy is beneficial in alleviating the pain and warming the muscles, especially before any activity or exercise.
  • A compression support should be worn as it will help in retaining heat and reducing stress on the ruptured rectus femoris tendon.

Improving Muscle Condition & Flexibility Following Recovery from Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

  • Patient can start stretching exercises as soon as they do not cause pain. Any type of exercise should not be initiated if it causes pain.
  • In the early stages of rehab for ruptured rectus femoris tendon, regular stretching exercises should be done at least two times daily.
  • Stretching exercise to include all the other muscle groups should also be done throughout the rehab program.
  • Sports massage is also beneficial and can be done to enhance the condition of the muscle and to propagate the healing process of ruptured rectus femoris tendon.

Strengthening the Muscles Following Recovery from Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

  • In order to avoid re-injury, strengthening the rectus femoris muscles is very important. It is very important to strengthen the muscles along the same direction in which they were injured.
  • As soon as the acute stage of ruptured rectus femoris tendon passes and the pain allows, light strengthening exercises can be done. They should be stopped if they cause pain. It may be anywhere from 5 days to a week before strengthening exercises could be started.
  • In the early stages of rehab, exercises can be done daily and the intensity should be gradually increased before complete activity is regained. As healing progresses, the frequency of the strengthening exercises can be reduced.
  • Stretching exercises should be done before, throughout and after a strengthening session.

Returning to Complete Activity Following Recovery from Rectus Femoris Tendon Rupture

  • Patient should exercise patience and make a gradual return to complete activity levels following recovery from ruptured rectus femoris tendon. For example, patient should not immediately go back to sprinting, but should start with slow jogging before gradually building it up.
  • When the patient is able to jog for at least 30 minutes without any pain or other problems, then the speed can be gradually increased.
  • In this stage of rehabilitation for ruptured rectus femoris tendon, more functional activities should be included.
  • Patient's return to full former activity can take anywhere up to 7-15 days or even longer.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: December 7, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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