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Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee: Symptoms, Causes, Signs, Diagnosis, Risk Factors

Patellar tendonitis is a health condition which causes pain inside the patellar tendon. Patellar tendon is a tendon which originates from patella or the kneecap towards the tibia or shinbone.

What is Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee?

Patellar Tendinitis also known by the name of Jumper’s Knee or Patellar Tendinitis 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. Patellar Tendonitis or Jumpers Knee begins as an inflammation of tendons of patella which then progresses and results in a tear or degeneration of the tendon.[1]

What is Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper's Knee? title=

Patellar tendon and the muscle ligaments join the kneecap to the tibia. The patellar tendon is quite strong and is responsible for quad muscles to straighten and align the human leg. The quad muscles facilitate straightening of the knee during a jump to push the person from the platform 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 tendinopathy. This condition differs from patellar tendonitis 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.

Where is the Patella Located?

Patella bone is situated in the knee where femur or the thighbone and tibia or the shinbone meets each other. Patella is a tiny round shaped bone and it is at the front of the knee. Its functions are to protect the knee and to connect the muscles of the front of the thigh to the shinbone.

What is Patellar Tendinopathy?

This is a popular knee injury which occurs due to overdoing or putting too much of stress on the knees. If the knee gets stressed, accordingly, the patella tendon gets overstressed. Main symptom of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee is occurrence of a severe pain under the knee cap when involving in jumping activities.[2]

What Does the Patella Do?

Patella is a thick, triangular-circular bone, which is also known as kneepain or kneecap, performs many functions in the knee area. It articulates with the thigh bone (femur) and protects the articular cartilage of the knee.

Causes of Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee

Patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee is very common knees overdo injury which triggers due to recurring strain on patellar tendon. There will be small worn outs in the tendon if too much stress is over loaded to the knee. The body tries to repair these worn-out tendons, but the tendon tears get growing and it generates ache from swelling and deteriorating of the tendon. If this pain due to tendon damage continues for several weeks the resulting effect is called patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee.[3]

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee?

If there is a continuous pain at the bottom part of the knee cap, most probably it could be a symptom of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee. The lower part of the patella can be pressed in as it is very much tender. But if an athlete feels stiffness along with a pain after his practice it may be due to an engagement of the quad or quadriceps muscles in acute cases.

Jumping actions seems to be generally painful. Furthermore it is a noticeable swelling or an enlargement at the damaged tendon than in the unaffected leg. The major signs and symptoms of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee include:

  • 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 quad or 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.

Due to the level of damage it is possible to categorize the patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee injury into four levels or grades:

  • Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee of Grade 1 or Level 1: The pain is felt exclusively after the activity or training.
  • Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee of Grade 2 or Level 2: The pain prior to and subsequent to training but pain is relieved once the regular warm up is done.
  • Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee of Grade 3 or Level 3: The pain is felt throughout the training which reduces your efficiency.
  • Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee of Grade 4 or Level 4: The pain affects your day to day life and activities.

Most of the athletes and affected people tend to neglect the knee pain as in most cases this pain eases out after a small break. Therefore this injury is likely to be a niggling injury which does not seem to be really bad. However if someone neglects this pain for a quite long period of time it may end up with a very serious situation and sometime may require a surgery.

What is the Perfect Time to Consult a Doctor for Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee?

For knee pain, first attempt self-care treatments, like R.E.S.T, icing the hurting section and for the time being stop or reduce the actions that cause the symptoms. Consult a doctor if the pain:

  • Worsens or continues.
  • Interferes with your daily life and does not allow you to work
  • Pain is coupled with redness or swelling of the joint.[4]

Risk Factors for Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee

Many activities increase the risk factors for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee:

  • Physical Actions: Jumping and running are most generally connected with patellar tendonitis. An unexpected increase in your activity will also add strains to the patellar tendon especially if the legs are not strong enough, changing your running shoes can also add strain on your tendons.
  • Tight Leg Muscles: The quadriceps/thigh muscles and hamstrings which are tight and spread to the back of your thighs, can intensify damage on the patellar tendon.
  • Muscular Imbalance: Some muscles in the legs are to a great extent stronger than other muscles in the body; the stronger muscles possibly will pull harder on patellar tendon. This not smooth pull could result in tendinitis.[5]

Complications for Patellar Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee

Due to the motivation from the coaches and others, many athletes try to ignore the pain and increase their workout or training sessions. Ignoring the pain when you are completely healthy is different but you should never ignore pain when you are hurt or in the process of recovery from patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee. If you do not pay attention to your body’s signs, the small tendon tears will become bigger tear and may proceed to more significant problems of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee where you have to undergo surgery and recovering from it could mean taking a break from sports until 1 or 2 years.[6]

Tests to Diagnose Patellar tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee

  1. Firstly, the evaluation and diagnosis of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee is conducted. These procedures can be utilized to facilitate ascertain whether patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee is the reason of the pain under the kneepain. When considering a so-called situation of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee, the physician will normally initiate with inquiries relating to not only the present injury, like how and when it is started and type of the indications are, but also concerning patients’ common health and preceding damages. Following this, an intention, or physical inspection will be utilized, to help reveal the likelihood of this damage and to control out others.
  2. In the palpation and inspection for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee the therapist will inspect the knee & the leg in common, studying for symptoms of damage such as bruising and swelling, in addition to likely causes to the damage, like fallen arches of feet. They will then sense the area for tension, warmth and tender areas.
  3. In the range of motion (ROM) test for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee, the therapist will over and over again gaze at the variety of movements of the adjacent joints which could facilitate to control out joint damages, in addition to point out which muscles or formation may be tight. By means of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee, that is widespread in support of the quadriceps muscles are to be stiff and so twisting the knee possibly is limited and may reason pain in the patellar tendon.
  4. In the resisted muscle tests for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee the therapist may ask the patient to shrink the quadriceps muscles, inspecting for both hurt and ill-health contrast to the opposite face as these are equally signs of patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee. Toning the muscles by the leg in a straight line is more probable to extract a painful reply than a twisted knee against confrontation particularly in longer term lasting cases. Performing tests by means of body heaviness are more possibly reproduce pain.
  5. The functional tests for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee is conducted if none of the above investigations make an optimistic outcome, the therapist may request the patient to make some motions which trigger ache, like squats or swing. This will assist to find out which actions trigger pain, especially during which movements. Squats are mostly hurting in cases of Patellar tendonitis.
  6. The imaging tests for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee can be quite helpful. Your physician may propose one or few of the subsequent imaging tests for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee:
  • X-rays. This may help to reveal and prevent other bone troubles that can trigger knee pain.
  • Ultrasound. This investigation utilizes sound waves to generate an image of the knee, informative worn outs in patellar tendon.
  • MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging. MRI for patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee utilizes radio waves and a magnetic field to generate through images that can expose subtle transforms in patellar tendon.[7]


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 23, 2020

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