Injury Tip Sheet: Patellar Tendinitis

Bryan Christie

Bryan Christie

Injury Tip Sheet: Patellar Tendinitis

Learn what you need to know to help treat and prevent this common knee injury

Kathy Weber, M.D., M.S.
Daphne R. Scott, PT, Dsc
Chicago, IL

Fast facts

  • Commonly referred to as Jumper’s Knee
  • Effects males twice as often as females
  • Can effect up to 20% of jumping athletes

What you need to know

What is patellar tendinitis?

  • The patellar tendon connects the kneecap (patella) to your shin bone (tibia)
  • Tendinitis refers to the irritation and inflammation of any of the body’s tendons
  • The patellar tendon, an extension of the quadriceps muscle group, helps your knee extend and push off the ground when your knee is bent
  • Patellar tendinitis is a common overuse injury that results in inflammation of the tiny the patellar tendon

 

Signs & Symptoms

  • The most prolific symptom of patellar tendinitis is pain and/or tenderness on the front of the knee, just below the kneecap, where the patella attaches to the shinbone
  • While exercising pain can be sharp; after exercise an aching pain can persist
  • Mild swelling in the kneecap region can occasionally occur

 

 

When should I see a doctor or other professional?

  • You should see a doctor if the pain keeps you from your normal routine
  • If the pain does not decrease after two or three weeks of self-treatment
  • If the tendinitis is severe or becomes chronic, your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist who may provide specific strengthening and flexibility exercises

 

Causes

  • Patellar tendinitis is often the result of repetitive motion—typically seen in jumping activities such as volleyball or basketball but is also seen in repetitive activities such as running or soccer.
  • Tight hamstrings and quadriceps can place additional strain on the patellar tendon
  • Training too much, too quickly, without proper recovery time in between workouts

 

Risk Factors

  • Although anyone can develop patellar tendinitis, athletes that participate in jumping sports such as basketball or volleyball run a higher risk of developing patella tendinitis
  • Athletes with weaker quadriceps and hamstrings or athletes who do not properly stretch before and after exercise are at risk for patellar tendinitis
  • You may have a mechanical default, such as a tracking problem within your knee joint, that may increase your likeliness of developing patellar tendinitis

 

What you can do

Prevention

  • Always make sure your hamstrings and quadriceps are stretched before exercising; it eases the movement of the patella as your knee bends and extends
  • Being overweight places additional stress on your knee joint and ligaments
  • Avoid practicing on hard surfaces, when practical, and ensure that your footwear has proper support

 

Recommendations for Treatment and Rehab

  • Treatment for patellar tendinitis includes icing, stretching, and strengthening.  .  You should ice the knee for 15-20 minutes every three to four hours in the initial stages of the injury.  Your doctor may also prescribe  anti-inflammatories to assist with alleviating pain and swelling and refer you to a physical therapist to assist in developing a comprehensive program including stretching, strengthening, modalities (ice and heat) and to address any biomechanical deficit that may be contributing to the tendinitis
  • Rest is important for recovery.  If the tendinitis is not given time to heal then it is possible for the tendon to rupture requiring surgery.
  • Even after the pain subsides, continue strengthening exercises and stretching as part of your normal workout routine

 

What can I do to stay active?

  • Lower impact activities like swimming, use of the elliptical trainier and cycling can help you maintain fitness while you are recovering from your injury
  • Although the use of a stair stepper is lower impact than running, the repetitive use of stairs may aggravate your knee tendinitis and is typically not recommended
  • Minimizing any exercise that increases or reproduces your pain will allow for a more expedient recovery

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