Do you want your shots to have more power? Of course you do! Every soccer player wants this ability. But without a proper warm-up or even too much certain training, a power shot can get you a quad pull injury if you don’t know the key to using your quadriceps. Below I have listed how the injury happens, but also how to help prevent it as well as how to recover from it. You’ll also learn how long it last depending on the severity of the pull.
How soccer players pull their quad
Shooting and driving long passes is what is going to give the quad most trouble. This is the muscle that gives our “kick” the most power, along with your abdominal muscles [stomach]. That is why, when I teach shooting & finishing, I always am yelling for the kids to “keep your core tight.” Not only is it going to protect their quad and hips, but it will also give you a harder shot or pass.
When I ask players at any age, they don’t know what part of the body helps give the shot more power. Even the high school varsity players don’t know the answer. It’s not the calf, the hamstrings, or the arms, right? It’s the quads & the abs. Don’t forget that [parents & coaches] because the players love to hear this wonderful news.
Meet one of my old youth coaches Ernie
I remember I learned this secret from a coach I had 1 year in high school. His name was Ernie. Ernie was cool and knew his stuff! His son Adrian was 1 year older than I was and grew up playing in the US youth national pool, which made me respect Ernie even more. Ernie was a big part of his son’s success because of all the knowledge he passed down at a young age.
Adrian could kick the ball harder than anyone on the pitch and was the smallest guy. That was because he had great technique and the secret of keeping the core tight while striking the ball. He was by far one of the most technical players I ever played with or against growing up or really ever.
The only thing that kept him from staying on the national team past U-18 and playing at a big college was his strength and aggression. He was small so it made it hard to play against the big physical players at the higher level. If you’re going to be small you have to be extra good with the ball and also aggressive or fast to make up for the size. You also need a coach and other players around you that know how to use you. Look at some of the best players in the world are tiny, but they are surrounded by other good players who can pass to feet. The point of the story is that you need to know what part of the body helps strike the ball because you can get more power and help protect the quad.
My experience with the quad injury
As a player I personally never pulled my quad and really, I didn’t play with too many people who did either but it does happen. As a Trainer, working with youth players year round, I haven’t seen many of the quad pulls. I do think I have seen players pull up with a tightness or a light tweak, where they are good to play the next day but they felt something. The times I have seen this is from a player who had a lot of game play the weekend before or it’s the end of a session where we did lots of shooting.
This is why I am careful in how much of these drills I work with them on. It’s amazing what I have learned over the last 9 years of running a private soccer skills business & not just from my experiences as a collegiate & pro soccer player. Athletes who run track are also at more risk due to all of the running from 2 sports that involve intense muscle use.
Who is the player who is more at risk?
The Striker/Forward is going to be more at risk because they strike the ball with as much power as they can, more than any other position. Defenders and Midfielders do have to make long passes but that is a different kind of ball strike compared to hitting it with as much power as possible like a Forward often does. Midfielders would be #2 at Risk because they run and cover more ground than any other position. Midfielders also handle the ball more than most so all that adds up.
How to prevent quad pull
- Warm up good & stretch before you start kicking the ball around. Most players, youth and adults, go straight to the pitch and start pinging balls around before they warm up. Most of the time you won’t get injured doing this but if you make it a habit then one day it will pull.
- Keep your Abdominals Strong. If you have weak abs, you’re making the quads work more than they need to, which in time could cause a pull.
- Keep the hamstring & hips strong so that the quads are protected. You want to keep muscles around other muscles strong so that they are well balanced.
Make sure you are not doing too much shooting / ball striking because this will cause Quad Pull or irritation. You have to know how to balance your training!
- Heat Pad on the quad before practice. You can do this while driving in the car to practice. Especially during tournaments,pre-season or end of the season matches make sure you take extra care of your body.
- Eat Healthy so you can recover as fast as possible. A Quad pull is usually going to be from overuse – not just a one day session. Recovery fits into the injury prevention basket. Protein is going to fuel your muscles and Carbs are going to give you energy so that your muscles aren’t working as hard as they need to with proper diet.
How to care for a quad pull
Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate (R.I.C.E.) for the first 48 hours as well as eat as healthy as you can to help speed the recovery.
- Day 1: No Rehab! Just Ice, Compression, Elevation for 10-20 mins every hour
- Day 2: Ice, Compression, Elevation for 10-20 mins every 1-3 hours. If you have access to a licensed trainer/therapist, use Electric Stem or Deep Heating Therapy. No strengthening for 2 days; just treat with ice and, if you can, e-stem.
- Days 3-4: Rehab the injury and other muscles around it including quad, core, hips, hamstring on the 3rd day (for up to 3 weeks). Usually you can be better in a week or two.
- Day 5: Rehab the injury the same as days 3 & 4. But also add in a 10 minute jog along with some extra core work.
- Day 6: Rehab exercises to keep strengthening along with a 20 minute jog, backwards running, & side shuffles. Include the Ball with some dribbling – no sprinting or quick change of speed yet. Also include small passes for 5 minutes.
- Days 7-10: You can tell better than anyone at this point how you feel. Each day add a few more intense soccer training drills, starting off slow. For example, instead of jogging and light change of direction, add in some short 70% sprints. When you start passing the ball, remember to keep your core tight because it helps the quads. Don’t hit a ball 100% until you have first made sure you can sprint 100%. This is because the long ball striking is going to be the last thing you want to do when coming off a quad pull. Once you can do all of this, you can join a full team practice.
How long does the injury last?
You’re looking at 1 week & up to 3 weeks, depending on how severe the injury is and also how fast your body recovers, but most will last 10 days. Some people recover faster due to genetics & some due to better treatment. If you don’t treat the injury with the correct exercises and therapy you won’t recover as fast.
Remember, if your injury was severe then you need to follow what your doctor says – don’t follow this list. This list is for the more common pull, which is not as severe usually. If you can walk without pain on the 2nd & 3rd day it’s not severe. If it hurts only to jog or walk fast, you are probably going to be good. You will notice improvement every day as long as you are treating it. If it hurts to walk slow the day after injury you need to see a doctor and get in with a therapist because that is a more severe injury.
In short, make sure you are eating healthy. Do some light strength training when you’re not in the heavy game/training season. Warm up good for every game/practice. Always keep your core strong and conditioned. These simple things will help reduce many injuries.
*I am not a physician. I am not licensed to diagnose or treat injuries. Always consult your MD with questions.