Do your knee(s) hurt after going for a run? How about knee pain after playing basketball or jumping?
Patellar tendinitis is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. The patellar tendon works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend your knee so that you can kick, run and jump.
Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is most common in athletes whose sports involve frequent jumping — such as basketball and volleyball. However, even people who don’t participate in jumping sports can get patellar tendinitis.
In children, patellar tendonitis is called; Jumper’s Knee.
It is an inflammation or injury of the patellar tendon, the cord-like tissue that joins the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shin bone). Jumper’s knee is an overuse injury (when repeated movements cause tissue damage or irritation to a particular area of the body).
Constant jumping, landing, and changing direction can cause strains, tears, and damage to the patellar tendon. So kids who regularly play sports that involve a lot of repetitive jumping — like track and field (particularly high-jumping), basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, running, and soccer — can put a lot of strain on their knees.
Jumper’s knee can seem like a minor injury that isn’t really that serious. Because of this, many athletes keep training and competing and tend to ignore the injury or attempt to treat it themselves. But it’s important to know that jumper’s knee is a serious condition that can get worse over time and ultimately require surgery. Early medical attention and treatment can help prevent continued damage to the knee.
Common symptoms of jumper’s knee include:
- pain directly over the patellar tendon (or more specifically, below the kneecap)
- stiffness of the knee, particularly while jumping, kneeling, squatting, sitting, or climbing stairs
- pain when bending the knee
- pain in the quadriceps muscle
- leg or calf weakness
Less common symptoms include:
- balance problems
- warmth, tenderness, or swelling around the lower knee
Jumper’s knee is first evaluated by a grading system that measures the extent of the injury (grades range from 1 to 5, with grade 1 being pain only after intense activity and grade 5 being daily constant pain and the inability to participate in any sporting activities).
While examining the knee, a doctor or medical professional will ask the patient to run, jump, kneel, or squat to determine the level of pain. In addition, an X-ray or MRI might be recommended. Depending on the grade of the injury, treatment can range from rest and icepacks to surgery.
For mild to moderate jumper’s knee, treatment includes:
- resting from activity or adapting a training regimen that greatly reduces any jumping or impact
- icing the knee to reduce pain and inflammation
- wearing a knee support or strap (called an intrapatellar strap or a Chopat strap) to help support the knee and patella. The strap is worn over the patellar tendon, just beneath the kneecap. A knee support or strap can help minimize pain and relieve strain on the patellar tendon.
- elevating the knee when it hurts (for example, placing a pillow under the leg)
- anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, to minimize pain and swelling
- massage therapy
- minimum-impact exercises to help strengthen the knee
- rehabilitation programs that include muscle strengthening, concentrating on weight-bearing muscle groups like the quadriceps and calf muscles
- specialized injections to desensitize nerve endings and reduce inflammation
Active Rehab treatments
These are cheap, easy to perform treatments that you can do it home in your own time. You should try to do as many of these as possible each day.
1. Eccentric single leg decline squats—3 sets of 15 reps, twice per day.
2. Ice Cup Massage before and after exercise for 5-8 minutes.
3. Gently stretch your hamstrings and quads a few times a day.
4. Massage your hamstrings and quads with a foam roller.
5. Chiropractic Adjustments to the knee and surrounding areas to ensure the knee is in proper alignment with the tibia/ fibula and femur. Any rotation can cause knee pain to continue as well as low back pain to arise as the body is compensating while walking/running.
These treatments are a little more expensive or time consuming and are only suggested for if you suffer from chronic patellar tendonitis pain and the conservative treatments are not working for you.
1. Consider running in a lower-heeled shoe to transfer some stress from your knee to your foot, calf, and ankle. Exercise caution if you have had foot or calf injuries in the past.
2. Ask an orthopedist about platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections or extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT).
On rare occasions, such as when there’s persistent pain or the patellar tendon is seriously damaged, jumper’s knee requires surgery. Surgery includes removing the damaged portion of the patellar tendon, removing inflammatory tissue from the lower area (or bottom pole) of the patella, or making small cuts on the sides of the patellar tendon to relieve pressure from the middle area.
After surgery, a rehabilitation program involving strengthening exercises and massage is followed for several months to a year.
Recovering from jumper’s knee can take a few weeks to several months. It’s best to stay away from any sport or activity that can aggravate the knee and make conditions worse.
However, recovering from jumper’s knee doesn’t mean that someone can’t participate in any sports or activities. Depending on the extent of the injury, low-impact sports or activities can be substituted (for instance, substituting swimming for running). Your doctor will let you know what sports and activities are off-limits during the healing process.