It was a pretty standard evening where I was just about to play 7-a side football. Everything seemed relatively normal and I just couldn’t wait to play. But what followed was an 8-week recovery period all from just kicking a ball (quite literally). That night I tore my quadriceps and this article will explain my overall experience and the journey it took to get back to full fitness. Continue on for Quadriceps: My Muscle Tear Experience & How I Recovered from It!
So, as I was saying, usually when I play football I’ll have a little warm-up routine of a few stretches and exercises to prepare my muscles before I play. Normally everything goes smoothly, and I feel ready for some really high intensity exercise.
However, on this occasion I felt a slight tightness in my right quadriceps. Any person who knows a thing or two about injuries will tell you that’s not a good sign (including myself), especially if you’re minutes away from playing football. But for some reason I chose to ignore this warning, thinking it would be fine by the time I got there and that I could just ‘run it off’…Big mistake.
As we started a pre-match ‘kick-around’ the ball was rolled to me, and on quite literally my first kick of the ball I instantly felt a sharp and intense pain course through my thigh, leaving me crumbled on the ground. I had torn my quadriceps and had to watch the full game sitting on the side lines in pain for the best part of an hour, certainly not the best £7 footy pitch fee I’ve ever spent.
Why Did it Occur?
It was a grade 2 quadriceps strain/tear which occurred due to a sudden deceleration as a result of kicking the ball (similar to the injury which kept footballer, Trent Alexander-Arnold out of the Euros this summer).
Striking the ball is a powerful movement and in this moment my muscle fibres couldn’t cope with the demands I placed on them. Additionally, there was a case of overuse and overtraining as it was during a phase where I’d run most days without having adequate rest. This would’ve led to repetitive micro tears over time which didn’t have enough time to heal, so when I kicked the ball it was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back.
What I was Feeling like at the Time
The first 2 days were the most difficult as I couldn’t walk without the aid of crutches due to the severe pain caused whenever I tried to put pressure or when bending/extending my knee. After a couple of days, I could walk but with a limp, and then after a week or so I was walking fine.
However, my muscles were very weak, so I had to be very cautious and avoid re-injuring the muscle. The next couple of weeks were especially difficult as I was desperate to get going again but I knew I couldn’t. I felt as if all the fitness and running progress that I’d made was all for nothing which was a bitter pill to swallow. All I could do was rest and work towards recovery.
For the first few days I adopted the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compress, elevate) as well as taking painkillers as needed. My next goal was to get full joint range of motion back in my knee through various stretches and exercises.
This is arguably the most important part of recovery as it prevents things like maladaptations in gait and it improves your mobility. Once full knee range of motion was achieved, I started light muscle strengthening exercises, progressing in weight and intensity over time as well as incorporating really low-intensity running into my routine.
At about 6 weeks, I was pretty much back to normal but very hesitant about returning to football as I was scared I’d injure my quadriceps again. That mental battle lasted around 2 weeks when I eventually bit the bullet and stepped onto the pitch again.
This was my first major muscle injury, so the whole experience was very new to me. I learned a lot from this ordeal but the main thing I took from it was the importance of mental strength. The physical pain subsided relatively quickly however, the frustration of not being able to take part in sport as well as the fear of re-injury was the hardest part to overcome.
My final words for anyone in a similar situation would be not to rush things, keep calm and stick to a consistent, step-by-step and daily recovery plan. There’s a lot to be said about confidence coming from regular efforts however small, (so, psychologically feeling better) and making a full recovery!