If you’ve pulled your quadriceps -- the large muscle group that runs along the front of your thigh – your doctor might have prescribed compression wrapping as part of your treatment. After a period of rest to allow the the injury to heal, you’ll likely get the go-ahead to resume playing tennis, but your previously pulled muscle makes you a candidate for reinjury. Injuries of this sort vary in terms of their severity and treatment requirements, so follow your doctor’s recommendations with respect to wrapping the site of your injury when you head back to the court.
Quadriceps injuries occur frequently in sports involving quick starts and stops, and muscle pulls -- also known as strains or tears -- are among the most common quad injuries. If you've pulled your quad, your doctor will likely ask how the injury occurred and conduct a physical examination to check for tenderness or bruising. Once your doctor determines if your injury is mild, moderate or severe, she will advise you with respect to treatment and prognosis. Grade 1 strains are relatively mild and tend to heal in two to three weeks. Grade 2 strains involve more damage to muscle fibers and can take one to two weeks to heal. Grade 3 strains involve significant tearing of the muscle tissue and can take months to heal completely.
According to an article appearing in "Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine" in October, 2010, there is little scientific basis for standard muscle strain treatment protocols, including compression. Nevertheless, typical treatment of a pulled quadriceps includes compression wrapping, which is thought to reduce internal bleeding and prevent additional swelling. To achieve this, your doctor might suggest wrapping your injured quad with an elastic compression bandage in the earliest stage of rehabilitation. Wrapping the quad puts gentle pressure on the tissue around your injury, which might improve blood flow. The bandage also provides support and serves as a helpful reminder that you should take it easy while waiting for the damaged tissue to heal.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons stresses the importance of waiting until the muscle heals before returning to your training regimen. Your doctor is unlikely to clear your return to tennis before your swelling disappears and you can work out pain-free. Plan for a slow and gradual return to your previous training levels. When initial pain subsides, begin gentle quad stretching exercises, then progress to exercises designed to rebuild strength. Once the flexibility and strength of your injured quad equal those of your other quad, your doctor will likely sign off on your return to the court. At that point, compression wrapping might no longer be necessary, but you should discuss the matter with your doctor.
Once a quadriceps muscle strain occurs, the muscle is particularly vulnerable to reinjury. The United States Tennis Association notes that an active warmup involving dynamic stretching -- such as lunges -- appears to be beneficial for preventing tennis-related injuries. If your doctor advises you to wrap your quad when you play tennis, avoid wrapping the bandage too tightly, which can cut off blood flow, and promptly remove the bandage if you feel any tingling or numbness or if the skin around the area turns blue or feels cold.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Muscle Strains in the Thigh
- Aurora Health Care: Quadriceps Strain
- Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: Diagnosis and Management of Quadriceps Strains and Contusions
- Sports Injury Clinic: Quad Strain Rehabilitation
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: How to Use an Elastic Bandage