Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee)
Patellar tendinopathy (or tendonitis) is a painful condition that affects the patellar tendon across the knee. Because of the great stress that is placed on the patellar tendon during jumping sports, it is often referred to as Jumper’s Knee.
Patellar tendinopathy describes damage to and subsequent inflammation of the patellar tendon. This is the tendon that runs across the front of the knee and attaches the quadriceps and the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shin bone). It works to both help straighten the knee from a bent position, as well as to protect the knee joint by helping keep the patella in place. The patella tendon (and quadriceps from where it originates) play an essential role in our ability to run, kick, jump, and generally move our legs.
Patellar tendinopathy is typically an overuse injury in high-impact sports, occurring when the tendon is repeatedly stressed and overloaded. This results in small tears through the tendon fibres and the onset of symptoms. An example of such overloading is repetitive jumping (and landing) like in volleyball or netball, as well as sports where players start and stop quickly, and often change direction. Additional causes include:
Without adequate management and recovery, the damage to the patellar tendon may result in long-term weakness with ongoing issues. This is the case for most of the older population that develop patellar tendinopathy, where damage to the patellar tendon has accumulated over time.
Symptoms of patellar tendinopathy can include:
If you have knee pain and suspect you may have patellar tendinopathy, you’ll want to take care and ensure to get it checked by your podiatrist. While it may start out as an uncomfortable niggle, it can weaken significantly and become a longstanding (chronic) tendinopathy with a very long recovery time to get the tendon back to its full strength and function.
Proper care and management at the early stages stops this progression and helps restore your tendon to its healthy, fully functioning state in a much faster time and with much less effort.
Until you’re able to have an assessment with your podiatrist, start by stopping the activity that first caused the pain and any activity that directly triggers the pain. Attempting to move through the pain can cause further damage to the tendon, which may lead to a tear in the tendon. Applying the PRICE principles (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation) can help reduce the initial pain and swelling where present.
Your Podiatrist will conduct a thorough biomechanical examination and develop a personalised management plan to get you recovered and ready to play as quickly and effectively as possible. This may include: