Patellar Tendonitis Treatment

The aim of Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s knee) treatment program is to reduce pain and inflammation and includes cold therapy, rest, taping, bracing, and massage.

The following treatment methods form part of our full rehabilitation program created by elite sports physiotherapist Paul Tanner.

The program is criteria based so you start at the beginning of phase 1 and only progress on to the next phase if you reach the specific exit criteria for that phase.

We recommend seeking professional advice if you are unsure before attempting any rehabilitation exercises.

Paul Tanner

Paul Tanner

Paul is head of Medical Services at Millwall Football Club, dealing with all aspects of match and training day sports physiotherapy and medical cover.

Who is this Patellar Tendonitis treatment program suitable for?

This program is aimed at treating and recovering from both acute and chronic Patellar tendonitis. If you are unsure of your injury, or if this program is right for you then we recommend speaking to a professional therapist first.

Program structure

Our Jumper’s knee treatment & rehabilitation consists of four phases. In order to progress to the next phase, you must reach specific exit criteria. So whatever type of injury you have, you begin at phase 1 and work through each phase.

If your injury is severe and recent then you may be on phase 1 for a couple of weeks. If your injury is mild or you have been resting for a few days you may progress more quickly.

Phase 1 Jumper’s knee treatment

Phase 1 begins as soon as possible following injury. The aim of phase 1 is to reduce pain and inflammation.

Work through the treatment and exercises in phase 1. Only move onto phase 2 when you have achieved the Exit Criteria for this phase.

Rest

  • Complete rest
  • No running or jumping at this stage… Be patient!
  • Limit walking if possible and avoid deep knee bends
  • Maintain fitness by arm-only swimming or use the time to work on your upper body as well as your rehab exercises

Note: Depending on how bad or how long you have had your injury you may progress quickly or need complete rest for a few days or more.

Check the Exit Criteria for phase 1 before moving on to the next phase.

Cold therapy

Apply cold therapy at least 3 times a day, or every 2 hours for 10 minutes if possible. Do not apply ice directly to the skin but wrap it in a wet tea towel.

Note: A commercially available hot and cold wrap is more convenient and can be used to apply compression as well.

Foam Roller

Use a foam roller on your Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Iliotibial band, and Calf muscles.

This can be done daily and is a good idea to make it part of your normal training routine/warm-up. 3 sets of 20 each.

Note: If you are lucky enough to have access to a massage therapist then get a deep tissue massage once or twice a week.

Bracing & taping

Wear a Patella strap or patella taping, especially if you have to be on your feet during the day. Continue to tape/brace as long as you feel it is effective.

Exercise – Gym ball bridge

Double leg gym ball bridge exercise works the core, glutes, and hamstring muscles.

  • With heels on the ball push the hips upwards maintaining control throughout
  • Perform 3 sets of 8 reps on a gym ball if you have one

Note: If you don’t have a gym ball, place your legs on a chair or bench.

Exit Criteria

Move onto phase 2 when:

  • Normal daily activities including walking and stairs (down) are pain-free.
  • You can do 10 double-leg squats pain-free.

Phase 2 Patellar Tendonitis treatment

Phase 2 is the isotonic phase and comprises:

  • Rest/offload/Cold therapy
  • Massage/foam roller
  • 2 Stretching exercises
  • 3 Activation exercises
  • 3 Strengthening exercises
  • 1 Movement control exercise
  • 3 Functional exercises
  • Running progressions

The aim of phase 2 is to gradually increase the load through your knee.

As you improve you should increase the speed of the downwards phase of the knee strengthening exercises.

Each rehab/training session should comprise:

  • Warm-up
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercises (so mild discomfort is felt on the last set)
  • Ice/cold therapy afterward for 15 minutes

Only move on to phase 3 when you have achieved the Exit Criteria for this phase.

Exit Criteria

Move onto phase 3 when you can do:

  • 3 sets of 10 reps single leg squat.
  • Hop 3 times with no pain after or the following day.

Phase 3 Patellar Tendonitis treatment

This is the heavy slow resistance phase comprising:

  • Cold therapy
  • Massage
  • Foam roller
  • 4 stretching & mobility exercises
  • 5 activation exercises
  • 5 strengthening exercises
  • 3 movement control exercises
  • 3 functional exercises
  • Running progressions

The aim of phase 3 is to further increase the load through the patella tendon and begin to introduce some plyometric exercises.

Only move on to phase 4 when you have achieved the Exit Criteria for this phase.

Exit Criteria

To move on to phase 4 you should:

  • Be able to perform runs pain-free, accelerating, and decelerating
  • Hopping should be pain-free
  • Single leg squats to 90 degrees should be pain-free

Phase 4 Patellar Tendonitis treatment

Phase 4 comprises:

  • Foam roller
  • Massage
  • 6 activation exercises
  • 3 strengthening exercises
  • 4 movement control exercises
  • Running drills & progressions

This is the eccentric loading phase where you can begin to really strengthen your knee and start to return to normal training. Eccentric exercises are those where the muscle is lengthening yet contracting at the same time.

Complete this program when you achieve the Exit Criteria for this phase.

Exit Criteria

To complete this program you should be:

  • have no pain 24 hours after eccentric leg press (at least 2 weeks at 1.5 x bodyweight)
  • Pain-free during and 24 hours after maximal sprints and accelerations/decelerations
  • Feel no pain on change of direction
  • Pain-free single leg squat to 90 degrees

However, we recommend you continue with quad stretching exercises and use a foam roller/massage as part of your normal training.

Check regularly to see if your knee is becoming sore by pressing in on the patella tendon. Apply ice after training and reduce the intensity if you suspect symptoms returning.

Access the full Patellar Tendonitis treatment program on our mobile app

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