Jumper’s knee, also known as patellar tendonitis or patellar tendinopathy, is a stress overload injury causing pain at the front of the knee where the patellar tendon connects the kneecap or patella to the shinbone or tibia, and is usually associated with jumping sports like basketball and volleyball. The tendon functions as a pulley over the kneecap to help generate more force with knee extension when running, squatting or jumping.
Most people experience pain at the front of the knee, just below the knee cap, with the pain being more pronounced after activity. The bottom of the knee will be tender to the touch. Athletics aside, going up or down stairs, going from a seated to standing position, and running or jumping can also cause pain. If inflammation is present, range of motion will be limited and pain will inhibit use of the quadriceps.
What Causes Jumper’s Knee?
Jumper’s knee may affect up to 20 percent of athletes involved in jumping sports like basketball and volleyball and is caused by repetitive stress from jumping. Repeated stress can cause anything from tendon inflammation to a partially or completely torn patellar tendon, with the symptoms often appearing gradually over time. While the exact cause is often unclear, it is often seen in people with weak quadriceps, poor foot mechanics, and those having knock-knees, or poor gluteus muscle strength. Jumping on hard surfaces may also be a contributing factor.
Because the injury often appears gradually over time, and may not initially present as severe, there can be a tendency to “play through the pain”, with the associated longer term risks of it becoming a chronic condition. There are four levels of classification, ranging from low-level pain after activity to a completely torn patellar tendon requiring surgery.
Treating patellar tendinopathy is generally conservative and involves reducing inflammation at the front of the knee, followed by rehabilitation to offload strain on the patellar tendon and begin eccentric strengthening. A patellar tendon strap is something many athletes find useful when returning to sport to minimize pain and to allow maximum performance. In sports or activities where a brace isn’t allowed, athletes may find taping beneficial. Surgery may be necessary if the patellar tendon has been completely severed.
Exercises For Jumper’s Knee
Stretching the quadriceps on the regular basis is important, because it will elongate the muscle, resulting in less stress on the tendon. Specific exercise programs will vary from case to case. An athletic therapist may also assess range of motion in the hip, knee, and ankles and recommend additional stretching and strengthening exercises.
How Apex Can Help
Jumper’s knee is most often seen in connection with basketball and volleyball, but can also be seen with gymnasts and soccer players — or any sport involving a lot of jumping. If you have been experiencing the kind of knee pain described here, the Apex Centre may be able to help. Our team of professionals will assess your condition and create a rehabilitation track, including rest, therapy and an exercise program designed just for you.
Therapies used may include: