Feeling a tearing sensation, hearing a pop, and experiencing significant pain in the knee area can signal a problem with the quadriceps tendon of the thigh – namely a partial or complete tear from the kneecap. This condition is a tear of the tendon that connects the patella to the quadriceps muscles of the thigh. The quadriceps muscle is used to straighten the leg from the bent position. A complete rupture of the quadriceps tendon is a disabling injury. Keep reading to learn more. 

Causes & Triggers

• High-force or awkward landing (especially from a jump)

• Sudden rotational change (as with running)

• Falls or direct force to front of knee

• Cuts and lacerations

• Weak, inactive, or degenerating tendon

• Tendonitis (inflammation)

• Medication and chronic co-morbidities (corticosteroids, renal failure, diabetes, obesity)

• Sports-related injuries (especially before age 40)

• Aging (after 40)

• Gender (more common in men)

Signs & Symptoms

• Rapid swelling

• Accumulation of fluid (effusion)

• Pain across the front of the knee

• Tenderness

• Indentation at the top of the kneecap

• Buckling at the knee and inability to bear weight

• Cramping or weakness

• Drooping or sagging kneecap

• Inability to straighten or extend leg (usually signals a complete tear)

Tips & Treatments

• Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

• Proper diagnosis may include an X-ray or MRI.

• Don’t panic – not every quadriceps tear requires surgery.

• Non-surgical treatment may include rest, ice, a knee brace and physical therapy.


These lists are not inclusive of all conditions and procedures. In order to obtain a complete and accurate diagnosis, a physician should assess your individual situation. Following diagnosis, your physician will discuss appropriate treatment options with you – both surgical and non-surgical. Schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic ONE physician.