Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee)

Patellar tendinopathy (also known as ‘Jumper’s Knee’) is an overuse injury, which is commonly seen in people who participate in sports that involve repetitive jumping, such as basketball, volleyball and soccer.  The injury can also occur in other sports and from regular, every-day activities.  The term ‘tendinopathy’ is used to describe impaired tendon healing characterized by pain, swelling and impaired performance.

The patellar tendon is a strong tendon that attaches the bottom of the patella (knee cap) to the tibia (shin bone) and allows the quadriceps muscle to straighten the knee.  The quadriceps muscles attach to the top of the patella via the quadriceps tendon. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signs and Symptoms  

Patellar tendinopathy is characterized by:

  • pain and tenderness on palpation of the patellar tendon and/or its attachments to the patella and tibia
  • pain with contraction of the quadriceps muscle, especially with high-impact activities (running/jumping)
  • pain with stretching of the quadriceps muscles (static stretching/squatting)

  

Causes   

Patellar tendinopathy can be caused by a number of factors:

  • muscle imbalances in the quadriceps, such as weakness of the medial aspect and overuse/tightness in the lateral aspect
  • lack of an adequate warm-up and stretching prior to activity
  • lack of adequate rest period between activities
  • overuse of the tendon from frequent running/jumping/starting and stopping

  

Treatment  

Patellar tendinopathy treatment consists of:

  • Rest: perhaps the most important mode of treatment.  Injured athletes must decrease their activity levels and allow time for the injured tendon to heal.  It is important for athletes and coaches to recognize which activities (practices/games/walk-thru’s) are essential and which ones can be skipped.  If the injured athlete continues to play at the same frequency and intensity which caused the injury, it is unrealistic to expect that the injury will settle down.
  • Bracing- in order to continue playing while receiving treatment, athletes can wear a ‘patellar tendon strap,’ which is about 2 finger-breadths wide.  It is worn around the knee and applies pressure to the tendon.  Wearing a brace usually decreases the amount of pain with running and jumping, and should allow athletes to continue with some level of functioning.  It is important for athletes to realize that wearing a brace doesn’t prevent the injury from worsening, and it doesn’t help the injury heal.
  • If a muscle imbalance is present, it is necessary to identify the cause (lack of proper footwear, a need for orthotics, poor exercise technique) and then perform the necessary exercises to reverse the imbalance- strengthening the muscles that are weak and releasing/stretching the muscles that are tight
  • Physiotherapy treatment consisting of manual therapy (muscle release/friction massage), exercises (as mentioned above), electrical modalities and ice to decrease the pain and inflammation of the muscles, tendon and surrounding tissues.