Patella Tendinopathy (previously called patella tendonitis) is an overuse injury that affects the tendon that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia).
It is an injury particularly prevalent in jumping sports, and is sometimes referred to as “jumper’s knee”.
Excessive jumping or landing puts strain on the patella tendon. At first there may be only minor or no damage to the tendon.
However, if the tendon is repeatedly stressed, these minor strains occurring in the tendon can exceed the rate of repair. The damage will progressively become worse, causing pain and dysfunction. The result is a patella tendinopathy (tendon injury).
The greatest level of stress through the patella tendon is during jumping and landing activities. Patella tendinopathy therefore usually affects athletes involved in sports such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, football, track and field, tennis, dancing, gymnastics and skiing.
The cells that make up a tendon can get fatigued with repetitive, exhaustive loads, or with sudden changes in load (such as resuming sport after a long layoff). This puts them at risk of developing micro damage, that gradually accumulates into damage that is felt as pain in the tendon, and occasionally develops to partial or complete tearing of the tendon.
Also, some patients develop patella tendinopathy after sustaining an acute injury to the tendon, and not allowing adequate healing. This type of traumatic patella tendinopathy is much less common than overuse syndromes.
What Does Patella Tendinopathy Feel Like?
People experiencing patella tendinopathy tend to experience some or most of the following symptoms:
- Pain at the front of the knee over the patella tendon (below the kneecap)
- Pain that is made worse with jumping, landing or running activity
- A gradual onset of pain that is commonly related to an increase in sporting activity
- Tenderness over the patella tendon
What Causes Patella Tendinopathy?
There are many reasons why someone develops patella tendinopathy, but these can include:
- Sudden changes in training volume
- Sudden changes is training intensity
- A recent marked reduction in training intensity or volume
- A change in training surfaces (ie running on pavement as opposed to grass)
- Flexibility deficits in the lower limb, particularly quadriceps and hamstrings
- Poor hip control (hyperlink to specific page)
- Poor foot control
How Does Physiotherapy Help Patella Tendinopathy?
There are a number of different causes of pain at the front of the knee. Patella tendinopathy is just one of the potential conditions, so a correct diagnosis is vital as the treatment can vary significantly depending on the condition being treated.
Luckily, your Leading Edge Physiotherapist is highly skilled at picking a patella tendon injury and can quickly assess and diagnose your knee injury.
Once confirmed, they will ensure the correct injury management and rehabilitation to get you back to sport in the quickest time possible. Treatment may include:
- Activity modification to reduce the stress on the tendon
- Soft tissue techniques on the tendon and supporting muscles
- Rehabilitation exercises to improve the strength and compliance of the tendon
- A structured return to sport program when suitable
I’ve Got Patella Tendinopathy (Tendonitis) – What Should I Do Right Now?
As soon as possible, and for 72 hours after injury, use the RICE method:
- Rest – Take it easy and only move within your limit of pain.
- Ice – As soon as possible, and for 20 minutes every two hours, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a damp towel. This helps to control bleeding and pain and reduces secondary tissue damage.
- Compression – Firmly bandage the injury. This helps to control swelling.
- Elevation – As much as possible, elevate your injury higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
If you are not sure if you need an assessment, you can ENTER YOUR DETAILS HERE and one of our physios will give you a call back to discuss your problem and work out the next step in your recovery.