Jumper’s knee or patellar tendonitis is an overuse injury that is caused by from too much running or jumping activities that results in pain at the front of the knee. This pain is generally localized towards the bottom of the kneecap. The actual injury is inflammation or degeneration of the patella tendon, which connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone. The patellar tendon is located at the front of the thigh and working with the muscles, allows the knee to extend for kicking, running and jumping activities.
This week, we will begin an in-depth examination of patellar tendonitis, also known as “Jumper’s knee” due to the injury being associated with athletes who participate in sports such as basketball and various track and field competitions, such as pole vaulting. In Part 1, we will discuss common causes and symptoms, and risk factors for patellar tendonitis.
Patellar tendonitis is caused by repeated stress on the patellar tendon. This common overuse injury stresses the tendon and results in tiny tears in this critical connective tissue. The body attempts to repair these tears, but as the tears in the tendon multiply, they cause pain from inflammation and weakening of the tendon. When this tendon damage persists for more than a few weeks, it's called tendinopathy.
There are some specific symptoms of Patellar tendonitis. These include:
Knee Pain. The primary symptom of Patellar tendonitis is pain, usually between the kneecap and where the tendon is attached to the shinbone (tibia). This knee pain may at first be present only at the beginning of physical activity or just after an intense workout. Often, it worsens until it interferes with playing sports. Eventually it may interfere with daily movements such as climbing stairs or rising from a chair.
Tenderness. The bottom of the patella will be very tender when pressing in and may appear larger or thicker than the unaffected side.
Post-workout Stiffness. The athlete is likely to experience aching and stiffness after exercise and pain when contracting the quadriceps muscles in acute cases. In particular jumping activities are likely to cause most pain or discomfort.
Jumper’s knee is graded 1 to 4 depending on how bad the injury is with grade one being only mild pain after training and a grade four resulting in constant pain.
A combination of factors may contribute to the development of Patellar tendonitis, these include:
Physical activity. Running and jumping are most commonly associated with Patellar tendonitis. Sudden increases in the frequency or intensity of the associated activity can add stress on the tendon.
Tight leg muscles. Tight quadriceps (thigh muscles) and hamstrings, which run up the back of the thighs, can increase strain on the patellar tendon.
Muscular imbalance. If some muscles in the legs are much stronger than other muscles, the stronger muscles could pull harder on the patellar tendon. This uneven pull can cause tendonitis.
Some people may ignore the body's warning signs by trying to work through the pain. This is inadvisable because it could cause increasingly larger tears in the patellar tendon. Knee pain and reduced function can persist, and then may progress to the more serious patellar tendinopathy, which is a more chronic condition.
Next week, we will explore the diagnosis and treatment options for this condition, and preventive measures that can be taken to avoid injuring the patella tendon.
If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in your knees, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive personalized care from an experienced, professional physical therapist