Patellar Tendinopathy ‘Jumper’s knee’
Patellar tendinopathy is a common knee condition which affects the patella tendon. This is the structure at the front of the knee which runs from the knee cap (patella) to the shin (tibia). Its function is to straighten the knee in activities such as walking running and jumping. Jumping causes repeated strain to the patellar tendon resulting in changes to its structure such as small tears or cysts. Similar changes can also occur when muscle weakness around the knee occurs as a result of reduced activity following an injury or during rehabilitation after surgery.
Patella tendinopathy results in pain from the tendon which can feel sharp after activity or exercise but can then persist often as a dull ache. It can be associated with clicking or clunking of the patella.
You’re more likely to get patellar tendinopathy if you have recently changed your training programme, shortened the length of your rest times, experienced problems with body movement (biomechanics), or have poor muscle flexibility.
Patellar tendinopathy can usually be treated with non-surgical measures. It does require patience though as improvement can take some time. Specific non-surgical measures and help from a physiotherapist are an important part of the recovery. They will be able to give you a treatment plan which may involve an exercise programme, usually strengthening exercises, and massage.
- In the short term, avoid activity that aggravates the pain until your condition improves. It is important to choose and continue with exercises that do not cause pain.
- Pain killers and ice will help control symptoms and allow rehabilitation exercises.
- Stretching of tight hamstrings and quadriceps reduces the forces through the patella tendon.
- An exercise regime with a physiotherapist consisting of a special exercise programme (‘eccentric exercises’) can help improve the condition of the tendon.
- Occasionally the condition does not resolve with these measures and patients can be treated by sports physicians with a specialist interest in this condition. Further treatment options may include patches and injections around the knee.
- In the rare cases that conservative measures are not sufficient to alleviate symptoms surgical treatment will be considered.