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Home | Specialities | Knee | Knee Problems | Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee): Overview, Anatomy, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee): Overview, Anatomy, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee): Overview, Anatomy, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Overview of Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis, commonly known as jumper’s knee, is an overuse injury that affects the patellar tendon, which connects the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shin bone). It is often seen in athletes who engage in activities involving repetitive jumping or explosive movements.

Anatomy of the Knee

The patellar tendon is a strong band of tissue that provides stability to the knee. It also helps transmit the force of the quadriceps muscles to the lower leg, allowing for extension of the knee joint; you couldn’t straighten your knee or jump without it.

Although it is called a tendon, it is a ligament (ligaments attach bone to bone, whereas tendons attach muscle to bone).

Causes of Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis is primarily caused by repetitive stress on the patellar tendon. Common causes include:

  • Overuse Injury: Engaging in activities that involve frequent jumping, running, or rapid changes in direction.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Weakness or imbalances in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles can contribute to increased stress on the tendon.
  • Improper Training: Sudden increases in training intensity or improper technique can lead to strain on the tendon.

Risk Factors of Patellar Tendonitis

  • Age: People over 40 have a greater risk of developing tendonitis, because as we age our tendons and ligaments become less elastic and more prone to injury.
  • Type and level of physical activity: You may have an increased chance of developing patellar tendonitis if you participate in activities that require a lot of jumping, sprinting or abrupt movements at fast speeds. You are also more likely to develop this condition if you participate at a competitive level and have an intensive training schedule.
  • Being overweight: This can put an increased strain on your patellar tendon.

Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis

Pain is usually the first symptom of patellar tendinitis. It is often a sharp, quite local pain that is felt right over the tendon, between your kneecap and where the tendon attaches to your shinbone (tibia).

Initially, you may only feel the pain as you begin physical activity or just after an intense workout, but over time, the pain worsens and starts to interfere with playing your sport and even daily activities like going up/down stairs.

The symptoms of patellar tendonitis can include:

  • Knee Pain: Pain around the lower edge of the patella, particularly during activities that load the tendon.
  • Stiffness: Stiffness and discomfort in the knee, especially after periods of rest or in the morning.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling may occur around the patellar tendon.

The symptoms of jumper’s knee are often similar to other knee conditions or medical problems. Always see a knee specialist for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Patellar Tendonitis

Diagnosing patellar tendonitis is quite a straightforward process and your consultant will be able to give you a clear diagnosis and explanation at your initial appointment.

Initially they will ask you a series of questions about the history of your injury, aggravating and easing factors and your normal activity level. They will also ask you about your past health and medication history.

Physical Examination

Your knee specialist will assess your knee range of motion, pain, and tenderness around the patellar tendon. They will ask you to perform some simple activities like walking, squatting, hopping and jumping.

Imaging Tests

X-rays are limited when looking at soft tissue injuries, however, they might be needed to rule out any bony injuries like fractures or osteoarthritis.

MRI or Ultrasound scans may be used to confirm and assess the severity of the tendonitis.

Treatment Options for Patellar Tendonitis

Treatment for patellar tendonitis aims to alleviate pain and promote healing:

  • Rest: Reducing or avoiding activities that aggravate the condition to allow the tendon to heal.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected area to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physiotherapy: Exercises to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and biomechanics of the knee joint.
  • Bracing or Taping: Using patellar braces or taping techniques to support and reduce tendon stress.

Surgical Options for Patellar Tendonitis

Surgery is very rarely required and only typically considered only when conservative treatments fail to provide relief.

Questions & Answers:

Can patellar tendonitis be prevented?
Yes, by incorporating proper warm-ups, gradual increases in activity intensity, and maintaining strong quadriceps and hamstring muscles.

Can I continue to exercise with patellar tendonitis?
It’s important to modify your activities and consult a healthcare professional. Low-impact exercises that don’t strain the tendon might be possible during recovery.

How long does it take to recover from patellar tendonitis?
Recovery time varies but may take several weeks to a few months with proper rest and rehabilitation.

Can patellar tendonitis turn into a chronic condition?
Yes, without appropriate management and rehabilitation, patellar tendonitis can become a chronic issue.

Can I return to sports after patellar tendonitis treatment?
Yes, with proper treatment and rehabilitation, many individuals can return to their sports or activities after a full recovery.

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