Patella Tendinopathy

Patella tendinopathy, also known informally as jumper's knee, is a common overuse injury affecting the patellar tendon. The patella tendon acts as a strong rope-like bridge connecting the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). This condition is prevalent among athletes engaged in activities that involve repetitive jumping or running, such as basketball, football, running, netball and volleyball. The repetitive stress placed on the patellar tendon can lead to microscopic tears and structural changes, resulting in pain and functional impairment like knee joint stiffness. Commonly patella tendinopathies occur after a period of rest and/or due to a sudden increase in load.

Individuals with patella tendinopathy typically experience localized pain at the front of the knee, just below the patella. This pain may worsen during activities that load the tendon, like jumping, squatting, stairs, hills or running. The condition often develops gradually and may persist for years if not properly managed. Factors contributing to its onset include overtraining (which is a complex equation of rest + activity + your body), biomechanical issues like hip, knee or foot issues, pelvic and leg muscle imbalances, and inadequate recovery. Commonly patients will find that the knee is able to warm up and they can get through a session, however they are sorer after the session or the next morning.

Diagnosis involves a thorough examination of symptoms within the knee, medical history, and rarely your OHL Physiotherapist may need imaging studies, such as ultrasound or MRI, to assess the extent of tendon damage.

Treatment strategies aim to alleviate pain by promoting tendon healing and addressing underlying causes of the initial tendon injury. Conservative approaches include some rest, icing protocols and eccentric strengthening exercises targeting the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Commonly you will be guided through exercises to load the quadriceps from simple exercises like a wall sit to complex jumping/ landing movements. Your physiotherapist will build a gradual and guided return to running or sport program with you, and this needs to be tailored to the movement requirements of your sport/ activity, your medical history, the time in the season and your stage of tendon injury. In more severe cases, where conservative measures fail, medical interventions like injections or, in rare cases, surgery may be considered.

Other diagnosis to consider include Osgoods Slatters in the child + adolescent population, as well as patella fractures, quadricep tear, fat pad irritation or patellofemoral joint pain syndrome.

Recovery from patellar tendinopathy is often gradual, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive rehabilitation program and preventive measures to reduce the risk of recurrence. Regular monitoring, appropriate training modifications, and addressing contributing factors are crucial for managing this condition effectively. Reach out to an OHL Physiotherapist to start your journey today by calling 9431 5955 or you can book online via our Client Portal available on our website.