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Jumpers knee or patellar tendonitis is pain in the tendon which attaches the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone. It is usually an overuse injury due to repeated eccentric quad contractions, as occur when landing from a jump - hence the name jumper's knee!
Patellar tendonitis can be a tricky condition to treat and requires a substantial period of rest and a thorough treatment and rehabilitation programme. In the most severe or persistent cases, surgery may be required. Here we explain the symptoms, causes and treatment options available, with advice from premier league physio Neal Reynolds.
Jumpers knee can be categorised into four grades of injury:
Warning!! - This injury may seem like a niggling injury that is not that bad. Many athletes continue to train and compete on it as it may not be a debilitating injury and recovers after a short period of rest. However, neglect jumpers knee at your peril! If left to become chronic it can be very difficult to treat and may require surgery.
The patella tendon / ligament joins the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone or tibia. This tendon is extremely strong and allows the quadriceps muscle group to straighten the leg. The quadriceps actively straighten the knee in jumping to propel the individual off the ground as well as functioning in stabilizing their landing.
As such this tendon comes under a large amount of stress especially in individuals who actively put extra strain on the knee joint such as those who regularly perform sports that involve direction changing and jumping movements. With repeated strain, micro-tears as well as collagen degeneration may occur as a result in the tendon.
This is known as patellar tendinopathy or Jumpers Knee. It should be distinguished from patella tendonitis (tendinitis) as this condition indicates an inflammation of the tendon whereas tendinopathy is more about degeneration of the tendon.
Jumpers knee treatment the athlete can do themselves depends on the extent or grade of the injury. A more severe injury may require longer rest and may result in surgery. Rest from training In mild to moderate cases, adaptation of training to reduce impact and jumping activities may be suitable.
Two modes of treatment may be advised - conservative treatment and surgical treatment:
This is normally advocated initially after diagnosis of patellar tendinopathy. Care must be taken so as to not overload the tendon. Treatment may involve:
This is normally advised as a last resort. Also, there is little convincing evidence to support the use of surgery over conservative treatment for patellar tendinopathy. Surgery either includes excision of the affected area of the tendon or a lateral release where small cuts are made at the sides of the tendon which take the pressure off the middle third. An intensive rehabilitative program is normally advised following surgery. In particular the use of eccentric strengthening exercises may help stimulate healing.