Quadriceps Tendon Rupture

Quadriceps tendon rupture: Causes, and Treatments

If you’ve ever experienced a sudden tearing sensation, excruciating pain, or swelling in your knee, you might be dealing with a quadriceps tendon rupture. In this article, we’ll delve into the details of this condition, including its anatomy, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and available treatments.

Whether you’re an athlete or simply looking to gain knowledge about this condition, OrthoNeuro is here to educate and inform you about quadriceps tendon ruptures. Our orthopedic surgeons are helping patients with knee conditions throughout Columbus, Ohio. Contact us today!

What is the Quadriceps Tendon?

The front of your thigh has four quadriceps muscles. The quadriceps tendon attaches these muscles to the kneecap (patella). The patellar tendon attaches the patella to the shinbone. It is through the flexion of the quadriceps muscles pulling the patella through the quadriceps tendon and patella tendon that extends the leg, straightening it at the knee joint.

What is a Quadriceps Tendon Rupture?

A quadriceps tendon rupture is when the tendon tears. A quadriceps tendon tear can be either partial or complete.

  • Partial tears: The tendon will still be able to function with a partial quadriceps tendon rupture. You could compare a partial tear to the fraying of a rope. The fibers may be frayed but the rope still functions.
  • Complete tears: Complete quadriceps tendon ruptures are when the tendon separates in two. The tendon will no longer be attached to the bone. As the quadriceps muscle is no longer attached to the knee, the leg will not be able to perform the knee extensor mechanism.

What Happens When a Quadriceps Tendon Has Ruptured?

Individuals who experience a quadriceps tendon rupture often describe it as a sudden tearing or popping sensation followed by intense pain. Pain, swelling, and an inability to straighten the knee are common symptoms. Some may also notice an indentation at the top of the kneecap, tenderness, cramping, and difficulty walking due to the knee giving way.

What Causes a Quadricep Tendon Rupture?

Quadriceps tendon ruptures can occur through injury or tendon weakness. We will discuss both of these causes below.


Quadriceps tendon injuries often occur when there is a heavy load on the leg while the foot is planted on the ground and the knee is partially bent. One way this could happen is if you land awkwardly after jumping.

Other possibilities are through falls, cuts, or forceful blows to the front of the knee.

Tendon Weakness

Weakened quadriceps tendons are more likely to tear. Several causes could weaken your tendons, including the following:

  • Tendonitis: Quadriceps tendonitis refers to tendon inflammation. This condition is more likely to occur in athletes and sports players who run and jump.
  • Chronic Disease: Diseases that disrupt the blood supply can also weaken the tendons. Bilateral quadriceps tendon ruptures (when both sides are affected) are possible when chronic disease has weakened the tendon. Chronic diseases that may weaken the tendon include:
    • Chronic renal (kidney) failure
    • Gout
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Hyperparathyroidism
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Steroids: Corticosteroid use has been linked to weaker tendons.
  • Fluoroquinolones. This antibiotic has been associated with quadriceps tendon tears.
  • Immobilization. Your muscles and tendons supporting your knees can lose strength and flexibility if you have been immobile for extended periods.

Risk Factors for Quadriceps Tendon Ruptures

Quadriceps tendon ruptures are most common among middle-aged individuals who participate in running or jumping sports. Additionally, those with weakened tendons due to various medical conditions or medications are at higher risk.

How Do I Know If I Tore My Quadriceps Tendon?

You are likely to hear a tearing or popping sensation if you have torn your quadriceps tendon. You may also feel pain and the area will begin to swell. Additionally, you may not be able to straighten your knee.

You may also experience the following symptoms:

  • There is an indentation at the top of your kneecap
  • Bruising
  • Cramping
  • Tenderness
  • Your kneecap may appear to droop
  • Your knee may buckle or give way while walking

Patellar tendon ruptures have similar symptoms to a quadriceps tendon rupture. With a patellar tendon rupture, the knee cap will usually be raised, and an indentation is seen below the knee cap rather than above.

How Quadriceps Tendon Rupture is Treated

Your treatment will depend on factors such as the extent of the tear, your activity level, and your age. Your doctor will either select non-surgical or surgical treatment. The following are some of the treatments available:

Non-Surgical Treatment

Non-surgical treatment is usually sufficient to treat partial ruptures. The following treatments may be used:

  • Brace or Knee Immobilizer: This will keep your leg straight while the tendon heals. You may need to keep it on for 3 to 6 weeks.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is usually introduced when the pain and swelling have subsided. Exercises will be given to strengthen the leg muscles and increase their mobility.

Surgical Treatment

You are likely to need surgery if you have a complete tear in your quadriceps tendon. You may also be recommended to have surgery if you have a large partial tear or a partial tear associated with tendon degeneration.

During the quadriceps tendon repair procedure, your surgeon will reattach the torn tendon to the top of the kneecap. It is essential to do this soon after the injury as it can prevent the tendon from shortening and scarring.

Complications of Quadriceps Tendon Repair

The most common complications of quadriceps tendon repair include weakness and loss of knee motion. Recurrent quadriceps tendon ruptures are also possible but rare.

Recovery from Quadriceps Tendon Tear

Recovery from a quadriceps tendon rupture can be a lengthy process. Initially, patients may wear a knee immobilizer or brace and use crutches to avoid putting weight on the leg. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in rehabilitation, gradually restoring strength and motion.

Complete recovery may take at least four months, with many patients reporting a full recovery in six to twelve months.

Book a Consultation Today!

At OrthoNeuro, we offer a variety of treatments for knee conditions, including quadriceps and patellar tendon repairs. Book an appointment with one of our specialists today in Columbus, Ohio. We look forward to helping you with your mobility!


Medically reviewed by B. Rodney Comisar, MD, FAAOS

Knee Specialists


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