What is patellar tendinitis?
Patellar tendonitis, known as jumper’s knee, is a common injury to the tendon that straightens the knee or connects the kneecap (patella) to shinbone. The pain may be mild or severe. Patellar tendinopathy is a very common injury in those who play sports using frequent explosive movements, like volleyball and basketball. However, even people who don't participate in jumping sports can get patellar tendinitis. For most people, treatment of patellar tendinitis begins with physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Pain is the first symptom of patellar tendinitis, usually between the kneecap and where the tendon attaches to shinbone.There may also have some swelling and a burning feeling in the kneecap. Kneeling down or getting up from a squat can be especially painful. Generally, the symptoms are:
- pain where tendon meets kneecap
- stiffness of knee
- pain and stiffness with motion, especially squatting and descending stairs
- a "cracking" noise with knee motion and squatting
What are the causes?
Patellar tendonitis comes from repetitive stress on the knee, most often from overuse in sports or exercise. The repetitive stress on the knee creates tiny tears in the tendon that, over time, inflame and weaken the tendon.Contributing factors can be:
- tight leg muscles
- uneven leg muscle strength
- misaligned feet, ankles, and legs
- shoes without enough padding
- hard playing surfaces
- chronic diseases that weaken the tendon
How is it diagnosed?
The doctor will physically examine the knee and during the exam, may put pressure on parts of the knee to determine where it hurts. Usually, pain from patellar tendinitis is on the front part of knee. Ultrasound, x-rays or an MRI can be used to observe any tendinosis based on doctor suggestion.
How is it treated?
Doctors typically begin with less invasive treatments before considering other options, such as surgery. Treatment is usually focused on pain reduction by resting the affected leg from jumping and sprinting activities as often as possible, warming-up pre-activity, stretching quadriceps and hamstrings pre-activity, and/or applying ice to the area, and small or partial tears can often be treated with only rest and gentle exercises. Further treatment will depend on the injury, a person’s age, and how active they are. A doctor may suggest wearing a knee brace to keep the knee straight and help the tendon to heal, and a variety of physical therapy techniques can also help reduce the symptoms.
How can it be prevented?
Anyone who plays a sport in which jumping and hard landings are common, they can take these steps to avoid getting injured in the first place:
- warming up and stretching before exercise
- cooling down and stretching after exercise
- wearing knee support when playing sports
- doing exercises to strengthen the leg muscles and support the knees
- avoiding jumping and landing on very hard surfaces, such as concrete