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What is Patellar Tendinitis?

The knee joint is made up of three bones; the patella, the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia. The patellar tendon connects the patella to the tibia, while the quadriceps tendon connects the patella to the femur helping to create the patellofemoral joint. The patellofemoral joint refers to the joint between the kneecap (patella) and the femur. The patellar tendon works in conjunction with the muscles of the thigh (quadriceps) to extend/straighten the knee.  The ability to extend the knee is important for participation in sports, especially those requiring running and jumping and is also important when completing activities of daily living.

Patellar tendinitis is an injury to the tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shin bone). Patellar tendinitis, more commonly termed “jumper’s knee,” is an overuse, “traction” injury that affects the front (anterior) portion of the knee. Repetitive stress during activities can cause small tears and inflammation within the tendon, eliciting pain during movements.

Causes:

  • Overuse injury that occurs in sports with excessive running, squatting and jumping
    – Inflammation of the tendon due to repetitive stress
  • Weak/ tight quadriceps musculature

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain in the front of the knee, increased with physical activity, such as running and jumping, and walking up and down stairs
  • Localized swelling over tendon
  • Pain when sitting
  • Feelings of creaking or squeaking sounds during movements (i.e., bending and extending the knee)

Treatment

Initial treatment of patellar tendinitis is to decrease or remove aggravating activities, such as running and jumping. Rest, along with ice and anti-inflammatories, can also help to decrease inflammation and pain.

Patellar tendinitis should be treated with physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the lower extremity musculature. Physical therapy, as well as home exercises that focus on strengthening the thigh, hip and core musculature, is important to decrease the tension and stress on the kneecap. Focus on stretching and strengthening the quadriceps/thigh musculature is pertinent as these muscles primarily control the movement of the kneecap.

A special type of massage therapy, called Graston, which is a form of deep tissue massage, can be used by a physical therapist to help facilitate proper healing and alignment of the strained patellar tendon fibers. Use of a patellar tendon strap, or a chopat strap, to help decrease the tension on patella during activities of daily and activities can be helpful in reducing pain.

Once pain is decreased, a progression back into sports as tolerated is suggested. Continuation of home exercises focusing on stretching and strengthening the thigh and hip musculature is important for maintenance of lower extremity strength.

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