Patellar tendinopathy, also referred to as Jumper’s knee or Patellar Tendinitis, is a condition that arises following increased loading of the patellar tendon at the front of the knee. Tendon overload causes cellular changes within the tendon that ultimately results in tendon pain and dysfunction.
The patellar tendon joins the large quadriceps muscle group to the tibia, just below the kneecap. Patellar tendinopathy is characterised by pain at the front of the knee felt either at the lower border of the kneecap or within the tendon itself. The pain is usually present during activities that cause increased loading through the patellar tendon, such as jumping and squatting. For this reason patellar tendinopathy is common in volleyballers and basketballers, with up to 45% of athletes in these sports being affected. Males are up to four times more likely to develop patellar tendinopathy compared to females. A diagnosis can usually be made by a skilled physiotherapist and should not require any medical imaging.
As patellar tendinopathy is caused by an overloading of the tendon, management involves reducing tendon loading during provocative activities. Tendon injuries, however, do not respond well to resting and hence simply doing nothing will not resolve the condition either. Instead, a very specific exercise program should be prescribed to maintain appropriate load through the tendon and to elicit a pain-relieving response within the central nervous system. Exercises involve both isometric (sustained holds) and isotonic (slow, heavy, through range) contractions.
Another method of reducing tendon loading is by addressing biomechanical issues that may lead to an increase in patellar tendon loading during jump/landing activities. A recent study has found that landing with the torso more forward in comparison to the hips reduces load through the patellar tendon. Additionally, improving ankle movement to increase load absorption through the ankle joint can both improve landing biomechanics and reduce patellar tendon load.
If the condition is not responding to load modification and exercise alone, there are some medications that can assist with the pain. However there is no evidence for injecting the patellar tendon with cortisone or platelet-rich plasma (PRP). In fact, cortisone has a detrimental effect on the long-term health of the tendon.
If you are suffering from patellar tendon pain, or have been diagnosed with Jumper’s knee or patellar tendinitis/tendinopathy, book in and consult with one of the physiotherapists at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy Essendon and Blackburn South to discuss your diagnosis and develop a suitable management plan.
To make a booking to see your local Melbourne physiotherapist for treatment of your Patellar Tendinopathy, please call your local clinic or book online.