Patellar Tendonitis or better known as Jumper’s knee is an overuse injury, more commonly found under the athletic population, especially runners. It is characterised as inflammation to the patellar tendon, usually due to the “too much, too soon” concept.
Let’s look at the anatomy of this injury…
The patellar tendon connects the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia), the main reason why you are able to extend your lower leg. Therefore, repetitive stress placed on this tendon may result in partial tears.
Factors that could increase the risk for developing Jumper’s knee include:
- Greater body weight
- Having bow-legs or knock-knees
- Abnormally high or low positioning of the kneecap
- Difference in leg length
- Tight hamstring and/or quadriceps muscles
Symptoms of Jumper’s knee
The most common complaint of jumper’s knee in the initial or acute stage is pain at the lower border of the kneecap at the attachment of the patellar tendon, mainly after activity. Point tenderness is normally very distinct around the same area, which may indicate a partial tear. The tenderness may be even more pronounced when the knee is in an extended position. As the condition progresses, without treatment, pain might be present at the beginning of activity, subsides as activity start and then reappear after activity. Eventually the pain might be present during rest and activity and become so severe that it forces the athlete to stop all activity.
Another common symptom associated with Jumper’s knee is tightness of the hamstring and quadriceps muscle, as well as weakness of the ankle dorsiflexors (Tibialis Anterior).
How to treat Jumper’s Knee
The best treatment initially is to stop activity and rest until the injury healed or subsided. Other treatment may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs, like ibuprofen)
- Elevating your knee
- Ice packs to your knee (to help reduce swelling)
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
Examples of stretches
Standing Hamstring stretch
Put the heel on a bench/chair. Keep your leg straight. Lean forward, bending at the hips, until you feel a mild stretch in the back of your thigh. Make sure you don’t roll your shoulders or bend at the waist when doing this or you will stretch your lower back instead of your leg.
Hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
Repeat 2 times.
Standing Quadriceps stretch
Stand at an arm’s length away from the wall. Facing straight ahead, brace yourself by keeping one hand against the wall (to keep balance). With your other hand, grasp the ankle on one side and pull your heel toward your buttocks. Don’t arch or twist your back. Keep your knees together.
Hold this stretch 20 seconds.
Repeat 2 times.
How to prevent Jumper’s Knee
It is easier to prevent an injury from occurring rather than trying to fix it. Some tips to try and prevent Jumper’s knee from occurring:
- Keep muscles flexible: One of the components of exercise that is overlooked on a regular basis is stretching. It is a critical part of all forms of exercise, as it keeps the muscle in prime condition to excel during activity. Focus especially on the lower limb muscles, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles.
- Try eccentric training. Do leg extensions—however, lower the weight slowly after lifting it at normal speed. Lowering the weight slowly challenges the tendon and the muscles around it, making them all stronger.
- Don’t exercise through pain. As soon as you notice exercise-related knee pain, ice the area and rest. Until your knee is pain-free, avoid activities that put stress on your patellar tendon.
Simonè is a registered Biokineticist, currently lecturing at the University of Johannesburg. She also has a private practice in Boksburg. Her specific interests in the field of Biokinetics include sports Injuries, preventative rehabilitation & orthopeadic rehabilitation, with a keen interest in balance-related issues. She is also a keen runner.
Please note that information found in these articles does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing an injury or condition of any kind, it is always advisable to contact a medical professional for advice on your specific symptoms.