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Quadriceps tendon rupture
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Quadriceps tendon rupture

Contributors: Robert Lachky MD, Sandeep Mannava MD, PhD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Quadriceps tendon rupture is caused by eccentric contraction, where the quadriceps tendon lengthens while its associated quadriceps muscle is contracting, or shortening. This is a higher force exerted on the tendon than a normal physiological load generated by concentric contraction, where the tendon and the muscle both shorten. A typical mechanism of injury occurs when the knee is flexed and the foot / ankle is planted and typically stuck, while a person falls backward and contracts their quadriceps muscle to counteract the fall. The knee thereby is forced into flexion while the quadriceps attempts to straighten the knee, and the extensor mechanism fails.

Quadriceps tendon rupture usually occurs in patients over 40 years of age. It often affects the nondominant lower extremity. It occurs when the tendon fails at its insertion on the proximal patella.

Risk factors include diabetes, renal failure, connective tissue disease, and rheumatoid arthritis / autoimmune disease; pre-existing tendonitis / disease is usually present when a rupture occurs. Medication risk factors include anabolic steroids and corticosteroids (systemic or injection into the tendon), aromatase inhibitors, statins, and fluoroquinolones.

Quadriceps tendon rupture is typically, but not always, an isolated injury. Bilateral extensor mechanism injuries can occur. Ipsilateral knee ligamentous injury occurs about 9%-10% of time in association with quadriceps tendon rupture.


M66.88 – Spontaneous rupture of other tendons, other sites

6849006 – Rupture of quadriceps tendon

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Patellar fracture
  • Patellar tendon rupture
  • Quadriceps tendinopathy
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome
  • Thigh contusion / Quadriceps contusion
  • Rectus femoris strain (muscle tear)
  • Neoplasm
  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Fracture (Distal femur fracture)

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:02/04/2020
Last Updated:04/27/2023
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Quadriceps tendon rupture
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.