Muscle tear or strain?
June 13, 2011 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday I was playing softball and after my first hit I was sprinting hard to beat out the throw to first when it felt like a knife went in the front of my upper thigh. What did I do to myself?

I got a pinch (courtesy) runner and hobbled off and rested it for a while but stupidly tried to stay in the game. My next running attempt lasted about two strides.
Did I suffer a pull or a strain or a tear? Are they the same thing? I haven't seen a doctor because the symptoms aren't too severe...a dull ache when resting and a limp when I walk. It's manageable, but I'd like to know what can I do to speed up recovery. What should my rehab schedule be? When do I attempt normal use of the leg again? When can I expect to play ball again?
(If it matters, I'm 46)
posted by rocket88 to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
I once tore my quads playing softball and I felt a small lump growing where the tear occurred from the blood pooling. I suggest seeing your doctor. Mine took several weeks to heal, but mine was pretty bad. Good luck, it's early in the season!
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2011

Probably tore a muscle. It took me a couple weeks to recoup from tearing a muscle in my quadriceps. You might take an NSAID (naproxen, etc.) to keep any swelling down, along with icing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2011

Maybe a strained quad. I would ice it, take some ibuprophen, and give it a couple days. If it were me, I would also skip a week of softball, and try running in 2 weeks, and back off if you feel any twinge.

Then, if it is still bad, see a Dr, although not sure what a doc could do other than to tell you to stay off it.
posted by Danf at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2011

Best answer: Ouch. I feel your pain. It's probably a strain or a sprain (medically distinct, but same basic impact; you would absolutely know it if it were a torn quad, as you wouldn't be able to walk, even with a limp). I did this to myself a few years ago in a, um, heroic athletic accomplishment involving orphans and a burning building (OK, I was running to first base in a kickball game), and it hurt like an absolute bastard for a couple of days, then tapered off to a dull ache. The one caveat is that this is a really, really easy injury to have re-occur. I'd try to stay away from anything involving fast acceleration or pushing off hard on that side (like, say, base-running) for a couple of weeks, as you will otherwise re-injure yourself multiple times, and every time you do so, it will reset your schedule for healing and make you roll your eyes at your own stupidity.

Obviously, if it's not feeling much better in a couple of days with ice and elevation and rest, you should go see your doctor about it, since it's not impossible that you did some sort of serious damage. But if my experience is any indicator, it'll resolve itself pretty much on its own.
posted by Mayor West at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2011

It possibly activated a trigger point (muscle knot which refers pain). Sounds like an inner thing muscle, but you'd have to track it down with a reference book. Let me know if you want book details, I don't want to look like a spammer.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:44 PM on June 13, 2011

Get yourself to a physical therapist! Seriously, they work magic. And they can give you an actual diagnosis and better advice around how to heal and how to avoid re-injury. I went when I sprained my ankle and after a couple of sessions I was walking without a limp again.
posted by radioaction at 2:05 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

You say "front of my upper thigh...." This makes me wonder if it is not a quadriceps, but a hip flexor issue. I used to periodically pull a hip flexor trying to beat people to the ball in soccer - it's exactly the sort of injury that comes from running at top speed and trying to will one's aging body to go just a bit faster.

The hip flexor is the muscle that you would use to lift your knee up as if you were stepping up onto a chair; the quadriceps is the muscle you would use to extend the lower part of your leg into a goose-step position once you'd lifted the knee. Trying those two motions might tell you which muscle it is, or, since I'm not a doctor, it might make your leg fall off and catch fire, for all I know.
posted by richyoung at 3:39 PM on June 13, 2011

Apparently Mayor West & I are the same person, because I too tore something in my thigh playing kickball! And it is very easy to do over and over and over again. Ouch.

Give it a rest for a couple of weeks, stretch carefully before each game, and get a little more potassium in your diet. I started eating a banana every day and haven't pulled a muscle since.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 5:39 PM on June 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I'm pretty sure my insurance covers physical therapy so I might give that a try. I'm also quite sure it's a quadriceps strain since the dull-ache part of it extends through most of my thigh, while the acute, localized pain when walking is about 3/4 of the way up my thigh, at the front. My googling says that's the rectus femoris.
I bought an elastic compression bandage today and it works wonders on making my walking more pain-free.
posted by rocket88 at 5:43 PM on June 13, 2011

Go see a doctor or a physical therapist, it's not worth the potential harm.

I hurt my knee 2 years ago, ignored it at first as it only hurt a little. To cut a long story short, I needed surgery on it, but because I waited too long I've probably damaged my other knee from overuse.
posted by zaphod at 8:30 PM on June 13, 2011

I do this every year at the beginning of softball season. Both my quads and hip flexors get really sore for a number of weeks. While this year is better than last year - I would love to know if you hear anything that can prevent this from happening next year (squats in the off-season?)
posted by Gor-ella at 9:52 AM on June 14, 2011

Go see a doctor. It does sound like a quad strain or tear, but it's worth finding out which. You really, really want to do physical therapy if it's either to ensure you don't develop any lasting issues.
posted by schroedinger at 3:05 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: OP Follow-up: I didn't end up going to my doctor mainly because they wouldn't give me an appointment sooner than 1 month away, and I figured it's be difficult to diagnose by then.
I'm very sure it was a tear, since I discovered (almost a week after the incident) a huge bruise on the back of my thigh from the internal bleeding.
The compression bandage helped greatly, and I rested the leg pretty well. After 3 weeks I did some hiking with some steep climbing. After 4 weeks I did some light running. All with no pain or after-effects. I plan to play ball again this Sunday.
Thanks again for the advice.
posted by rocket88 at 8:48 AM on July 15, 2011

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