If you are play in school sports like basketball or if you are just very active and play outside a lot, chances are that sooner or later, you are going to hurt your knees!  Knees are a part of the body which are simply prone to injury – and one of the most common injuries is known as patellar tendonitis, also called jumper’s knee. Read on to find out more about it!

What is Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis refers to an injury to the patellar tendon. This is a ropey, tough band of tissue which connects your kneecap (called the patella) to the shinbone (called the tibia).  This tendon is what allows you to do things like running, kicking and jumping and kids who participate in sports like basketball or volleyball which require a lot of jumping are more likely to get this kind of injury.

How Do You Know if You have Jumper’s Knee?

The main symptom associated with jumper’s knee is pain, especially pain:

  • Which seems to come from under the kneecap and which can get worse when trying to straighten the leg
  • Which can start out by only happening with sports or activity but eventually make it hard to even walk if it is left untreated
  • Which does not get better with rest and icing alone

Other symptoms can include stiffness, swelling, redness or warmth around the knee and weakness in the knee and calf muscles.

What Causes this Condition?

Doctors believe that patellar tendonitis is an injury due to overuse or too much stress on the knees.  Tears to the tendon start out as being minor, but as the tears get worse and inflammation increases, so will pain and difficulty using the joint.

What Puts You at Risk for Patellar Tendonitis?

There are several risk factors which makes it more likely that you will get patellar tendonitis. These factors include:

  • Participation in sports or just being physically active. Apart from basketball and volleyball, other sports which bring a high risk for this injury include gymnastics, track and field and soccer.
  • Tightened muscles in the legs and thighs, which can put more strain on the patellar tendon
  • Difficulty balancing

Are There Any Complications from Patellar Tendonitis?

Fortunately, even if it hurts, patellar tendonitis won’t kill you!  However, it can lead a complication called patellar tendonopathy, a chronic condition which involves the tendons and which can lead to long-term difficulty walking and doing other activities.  The good news is, though, that if treatment for jumper’s knee is prompt, this can usually be avoided.

How Can the Doctor Tell if You Have this Condition?

Generally, doctors will give you a physical exam and ask you a lot of questions about your activity level and any sports you might be involved in as well as when the pain began, what it is like and where the pain is located.  They might ask you to walk, jump or run so they assess just how much of a problem you are having. They will usually press on pressure points in and around the knee to locate the area of the pain and will sometimes do an imaging test like an X-ray to give them more information about what is going on.  After this, he or she will make a diagnosis and come up with a plan of treatment.

How is this Condition Treated?

The first step to treatment is asking for help! Don’t ignore knee pain that doesn’t go away, as trying to “work through” that pain can sometimes just make the problem worse.  Once you do go in and have the knee examined, there are lots of things you can do to help you get better, including:

  • Over the counter medications like ibuprofen to help control pain and decrease swelling
  • Avoiding activities which put stress on the knee
  • Apply ice or cold compress to the knee and elevating it to reducing swelling (a pillow under the knee works really well for this)
  • Physical therapy is sometimes used to teach good body mechanics (ways of using your body that make injury less likely)
  • Massage therapy to relieve pain and pressure and promote circulation and healing.
  • Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to increase flexibility in the area and strengthen the muscles in the thighs
  • A tendon strap which fits below the knee and helps to relieve pressure or stress on the tendon
  • Iontophoresis, a therapy which combines anti-inflammatory drugs with a low-current electrical device to deliver medication deep into the knee
  • Injectable drugs to help reduce inflammation and promote healing
  • Surgical repair of the tendon (this is usually only considered if the treatments above have not been successful). Surgery can include removing damaged parts of the tendon or making cuts to help relieve pressure on this area).  Treatment after therapy can go for months or up to a year in order to recover fully.

So, if knee pain is a problem, talk to your doctors and have them make an appointment with your doctor. The quicker patellar tendonitis is treated, the quicker the problem will go away, leaving you free to get back into the game!