Patella Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis, also called jumper’s knee, is pain in the front of the knee along the band of tissue (the patellar tendon) that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia).

Cause

The most common activity causing patellar tendonitis is too much jumping. Other repeated activities, such as running, walking, or bicycling may also lead to patellar tendonitis.

All of these activities put repeated stress on the patellar tendon, causing it to become inflamed.

Patellar tendonitis can also happen to people who have problems with the way their hips, legs, knees, or feet are aligned.

This alignment problem can result from having wide hips, being knock-kneed, or having feet with arches that collapse when you walk or run, a condition called overpronation.

Symptoms

  • Pain and tenderness around the patellar tendon
  • Swelling in your knee joint, or swelling where the patellar tendon attaches to the shin bone
  • Pain with jumping, running or walking, especially downhill or downstairs
  • Pain with bending or straightening the leg
  • Tenderness behind the kneecap 

Diagnosis

Your Wisconsin Bone & Joint doctor will discuss your medical history. To determine the exact cause of your symptoms, your doctor will test how well you can extend, or straighten, your knee. While this part of the examination can be painful, it is important to identify a patellar tendon tear.

Imaging Tests

To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may order some imaging tests, such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

X-rays

The kneecap moves out of place when the patellar tendon tears. This is often very obvious on a lateral X-ray view of the knee. Complete tears can often be identified with these X-rays alone.

MRI

This scan creates better images of soft tissues like the patellar tendon. The MRI can show whether some of the tendon is torn and the location of the tear. Sometimes, an MRI is required to rule out a different injury that has similar symptoms.

Treatment

In the early stages you should apply ice packs for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days, or until the pain goes away.

Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication.

He or she may also prescribe a band to wear across the patellar tendon, (called an infra-patellar strap) or a special knee brace. The strap or brace will support your patellar tendon, preventing it from becoming overused or painful.

If you have a problem with overpronation of your foot, your doctor may prescribe custom-made arch supports called orthotics.

You will also be given rehabilitation exercises to help you return to your sport or activity.

Also, while you are recovering, you will need to change your sport or activity to one which will not make your condition worse.

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