UW Health's Sports Medicine doctors in Madison, Wisconsin, treat a wide range of common athletic injuries, including patellar tendonitis, or jumper’s knee.
About Patellar Tendonitis
Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee) is caused by inflammation of the patellar tendon (located at the front of the knee just below the kneecap) due to micro-tearing (very small tears of the tendon) at the attachment site of this tendon. Patellar tendonitis is a common overuse injury and occurs frequently in individuals who participate in sports involving jumping, running and cycling.
Signs and Symptoms
- Stage 1: Symptoms initially begin with pain just below the kneecap (over the tendon) after activity.
- Stage 2: As symptoms progress or become worse, pain occurs as activity begins, disappears during activity, and returns after activity.
- Stage 3: Pain may progress and get more frequent and severe with pain present during and after activity as well as pain that occurs with normal everyday activities, such as squatting and walking on level surfaces and stairs.
Patellar tendonitis has many causes, including:
- Sudden increases in exercise intensity or duration
- Poor warm-up prior to activities
- Overuse or over-training
Treatment strategies depend on the severity of pain/symptoms, and include the following:
- Stage 1: Treatment in this early stage normally consists of ensuring sufficient warm-up activities prior to exercise; modifying activities if necessary; taking anti-inflammatory medication as prescribed by a physician; and icing the patellar tendon after activity/exercise.
- Stage 2: If symptoms progress, moist heat may be helpful prior to exercise as well as activity modification. Continue treatments from Stage 1.
- Stage 3: If symptoms continue to progress so that pain occurs at rest or with normal, everyday activities, treatments often require the oversight of a rehabilitation provider such as a physical therapist or athletic trainer. Rest from any aggravating activities also may be required to stop the cycle of inflammation and pain.
- Occasionally bracing with a patellar tendon strap can help reduce pain with activity. This can be tried at any point in the treatment process.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections are a treatment option for those suffering from this condition chronically. In this procedure, a patient’s blood plasma (which contains growth factors that aid in the healing of tissues) is injected into the patellar tendon.
- In some rare cases, surgery is indicated.
Since patellar tendonitis is often due to improper warm-up and/or training, the condition often is preventable by doing the following:
- Avoid sudden changes in training or sudden changes in activity
- Begin treatment at the first sign of consistent pain in the patellar tendon
- Modify activities by decreasing or avoiding impact loading (running, jumping and aerobics) until symptoms are no longer present
- Gradually return to activity as pain subsides