When it comes to sports like basketball and volleyball, athletes spend a lot of time jumping as they attempt to get balls in - or over - nets. Knees take a lot of stress, particularly for athletes playing in competitive sports. In fact, activities that require running and jumping exert a force on the knees of up to nine to 11 times one’s body weight. All that jumping can cause a knee injury known as patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee.

Patellar tendonitis is a chronic overuse injury to the patellar tendon. The injury, commonly found in people who play basketball or volleyball, causes inflammation as a result of chronic, repetitive jumping and excessive exertion of the knees.

Left untreated, jumper’s knee can result in prolonged pain during and after the activity and an inability to perform at a high level. The repetitive stress of continued play can lead to micro-tears or a complete rupture of the patellar tendon. If this happens, surgery is required to repair the tendon.

Surgery for patellar tendonitis is a last resort. It is best to recognize and treat the condition early to minimize lost time due to the injury.

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Patellar Tendonitis Symptoms

  • Patella (kneecap) laxity or an unstable patella, which includes pain, swelling and inflammation of the kneecap
  • Hamstring tightness, indicated by poor flexibility in the back of the thigh
  • Heel cord/achilles tendon tightness, which is identified by poor flexibility in the rear of the ankle
  • Muscular asymmetry, or disparity between muscle size in legs, which can cause muscle shrinkage
  • Ankle dorsi flexion weakness, which affects the muscles around the ankle

To prevent patellar tendonitis, athletes should have a thorough pre-, mid- and post-season strength and conditioning exercise program, as well as maintain lower extremity flexibility.

Weight lifting and cardiovascular workouts are good methods of avoiding jumper’s knee.

Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper's Knee) Treatment

Treatment for jumper’s knee involves resting, applying ice to the injury, compressing the injury and elevating the affected area. According to Cooper, the letters R-E-S-T explain how best to rest after a jumper’s knee injury.

'R' stands for rehabilitation, 'E' stands for exercises prescribed by a physician, 'S' stands for strength and endurance training and 'T' stands for time off from the activity that caused the injury. The athlete can still use many machines in the gym or ride a bicycle. You want to stay active to avoid muscle atrophy.

In addition, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, is used as part of the treatment. Athletes can run a risk of re-injury if they do not participate in strength and conditioning exercises.

Individualized Treatment Approach

Each individual with patellar tendonitis must be approached differently. Treatment depends on the phase of the injury, whether it is acute or chronic. There is no timeline in recovering from jumper’s knee - recovery may take a week for one person and a month for someone else.

Jumper’s knee is most often found in adults aged 30 or older, especially those “weekend athletes” who do not regularly do strength and conditioning exercises.

The condition is also frequently found in children ages 10-16 because their muscles are still growing and developing.

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The team of physicians, orthopedic surgeons, therapists, and trainers at Memorial Hermann | Rockets Sports Medicine Institute treat a variety of sports injuries, allowing the active patient to return to their desired activity level in a safe, effective, and timely manner.

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For more information on the Rockets Sports Medicine Institute orthopedic doctors or surgeons, treatment for injuries, scheduling Human Performance services, or getting more information about physical therapy, please fill out the form below or call us at (713) 222-2273


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