Upper Leg Injury

Injury to the upper leg is fairly common for runners. Injury to quadriceps, hamstrings and other areas of the upper leg make up 38 percent of injuries. Learn more about leg injuries, prevention, and recovery.

Upper Leg Injury Basics

Leg pain can cause difficulty walking, running, or jogging. Sometimes pain can occur after trauma or an injury. To pinpoint the injury requires a basic understanding of the anatomy of the upper leg. It can be broken down into sections: front, back, outside, and inside of the upper leg muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Front of the upper leg

The front side of the upper leg is the quadricep muscles, commonly referred to as the thigh. On the inner part of the upper leg are the muscles that make up the groin.


The front of the upper leg is made up of a number of different muscles. The quadriceps femoris is the most voluminous muscle of the human body. It consists of four individual muscles; three vastus muscles (lateralis, medialis, intermedius) and the rectus femoris. They form the main bulk of the thigh, and collectively are one of the most powerful muscles in the body.


Part of the inside upper leg is the groin. The groin muscles consist of three large groups of muscles: the abdominal, iliopsoas, and the adductor muscle group.

Back of the upper leg

Starting at the midsection moving down the back of the upper leg are the glutes then hamstring muscles.

Hamstring muscle

Your hamstring is made up of three muscles that run along the back of the leg and connect with bone just below the knee. The role of your hamstring is to flex the knees and extend the hips.


The butt has three muscles, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the large, wide, thick muscle at the surface of the buttocks.

Causes of Upper Leg Injury

This article discusses the common causes of thigh pain along with potential treatments. Take note of the signs and symptoms that indicate when you should see a healthcare provider. In rare cases, thigh pain can be a sign of a life-threatening condition.

Common Upper Leg Injuries

adductor injury

Adductor Injury

The hip joints have a wide range of movement, forward and back, in and out, and rotationally. These movements are supported by adductor muscles.

The function of the adductor is to pull the thighs together, stabilize the hips, and rotate the upper leg inward.

An adductor tear causes sudden pain, like a groin pull. Due to the interconnected muscles that stabilize the hip, the pain is typically excruciating so you won’t be able to run through the pain.

Hamstring Strain

Hamstring strains are small tears in the muscle. Very common for sprinters. But chubby runners training for a marathon, a hamstring strain, is more common. These are a result of micro-tears that subsequently develop scar tissue. And this can lead to chronic stiffness and discomfort.

Groin Pull

WebMD says that a groin pull — or groin strain — results from exerting too much stress on muscles in your groin and thigh. If these muscles are tensed too forcefully or too suddenly, they can get over-stretched or torn. Groin pulls are common in people who play sports that require a lot of running and jumping.

Quadriceps tendonitis 

If you feel pain just above the knee where the quadriceps muscles and tendons meet, you may have tendonitis. If left untreated, this kind of tendonitis can get much worse. You may eventually require knee surgery.

Gluteal Strain

According to Tufts Medical, a gluteal strain is a stretch or tear of a muscle in your buttocks called the gluteal muscle. Most often happens when you are running or jumping. It’s a common injury for hurdlers and dancers but can also afflict chubby runners.