Patellar tendinitis1 also known by the name of Jumper’s knee is a medical condition where an individual starts experiencing pain at the lower part of the patella or kneecap. It usually results from injury due to chronic overuse. It is most common in sportsmen involved in sports requiring repetitive jumping like basketball and volleyball. Individuals who are not involved in such sports may also suffer from patellar tendinitis. It begins as an inflammation of the patellar tendon, which then progresses and results in a tear or degeneration of the tendon. The patellar tendon/ligament joins the kneecap to the shin bone. The patellar tendon is quite strong and is responsible for the quadriceps muscle group to straighten the leg. The quadriceps muscles facilitate straightening of the knee during a jump to push the individual off the ground and stabilize their landing. This entire act puts incredible stress on the tendon, especially in those individuals involved in sports such as basketball or volleyball. This repeated and chronic stress on the tendon causes a tear and degeneration of the collagen present in the tendon resulting in what is called as patellar tendinopathy2. This condition differs from patellar tendinitis in that there is inflammation of the tendon whereas in tendinopathy there is degeneration of the tendon. The injury may seem mild to the patient in the beginning and generally they ignore it and carry on with their daily activities and the athletes continue to train; however, it should not be neglected for long as if it becomes chronic then it becomes very difficult to treat and sometimes necessitating surgery.
Symptoms of Patellar Tendinitis or Jumper’s Knee
- Pain at the inferior and anterior region of the patella.
- Pain with pressure on the kneecap.
- Pain and stiffness after being physically active.
- Pain with contraction of the quadriceps muscles.
- The affected or injured tendon may appear larger in size in comparison to the unaffected side.
- Weak VMO function is present.
- Calf weakness may also be present.
There Are Four Grades of Injury For Patellar Tendinitis or Jumper’s Knee
- Grade 1: Presence of pain only after being physically active.
- Grade 2: Presence of pain before and after physical activity with a decrease in pain after warm-up.
- Grade 3: Pain with activity affecting motion.
- Grade 4: Pain while performing activities of daily living. There may be a complete tendon tear necessitating surgery.
Treatment of Patellar Tendinitis or Jumper’s Knee
- Treatment6 depends on the degree or grade of the injury. A severe injury requires prolonged rest and may also require surgery.
- Adequate rest is required and activities putting stress on the tendon should be avoided.
- Applying cold therapy helps with pain, especially after being active.
- Knee support or a jumper’s knee3 strap helps in reducing pain and strain on the tendon.
- Sports massage techniques to the tendon by a sports injury specialist can be done.
- Patient should enroll in a rehab program.
- Eccentric strengthening is also recommended.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen may be given.
- Ultrasound or laser treatment is also beneficial.
- Cross friction massage techniques can also be done.
- Treatment of this condition is gradual and requires many months of rehabilitation along with rest.
- The VISA questionnaire can be filled to monitor the progress of the tendinopathy during rehabilitation5.
- If the patient does not find relief with conservative treatment, then surgery may be needed and lateral release of the patellar tendon4 can be done.