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Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper's Knee)

Patellar tendonitis, or "jumper's knee," results from overuse, causing pain in the kneecap's tendon. There are a variety of treatments for jumpers knee including rest, ice, medication, physical therapy and surgery. Learn more and how to get diagnosed and treated at UPMC.

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What Is Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper's Knee)?

Patellar tendonitis, also called “jumper's knee,” is damage to the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone.

The patellar tendon along with the quadriceps muscle and tendon allow you to straighten your knee.

What causes patellar tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis is an overuse injury due to repeated stress on the tendon. This causes tiny tears in the tendon.

With rest, your body can repair the tendon tears in the knee.

Without resting the stress to your knee, your body can't repair the tendon tears fast enough. This causes inflammation and pain.

In rare cases, an acute injury to the tendon that hasn't had time to heal can cause patellar tendonitis or jumper's knee.

What are the patellar tendonitis risk factors?

Athletes who play jumping sports — such as basketball or volleyball — have a high risk of getting patellar tendonitis.

Running and soccer can also lead to knee tendon tears.

How do you prevent patellar tendonitis?

Here are a few steps you can take to prevent patellar tendonitis:

  • Conditioning properly.
  • Adding new or higher impact activity slowly.
  • Warming up and stretching before exercise.
  • Wearing the right shoes for your sport.

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What Are the Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis ?

The first sign of patellar tendonitis is pain in your kneecap where the tendon connects to the shinbone.

You may also feel pain when jumping or kneeling.

Patellar tendonitis pain often starts off mild, but symptoms can become more severe over time.

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How Do You Diagnose Patellar Tendonitis?

To diagnose patellar tendonitis or jumper's knee, your doctor at UPMC will take your medical history and do a physical exam. He or she will look for knee pain by pressing on the tendon.

You might also need x-rays or other imaging tests to rule out:

  • Bone problems
  • Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Other knee injuries

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How Do You Treat Patellar Tendonitis?

The first goal of patellar tendonitis treatment is to give your body the chance to heal the damaged tendon in your knee.

At-home patellar tendonitis treatment

You can often treat minor knee tendon strains or tears at home with:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs for pain

To help treat jumper's knee, the UPMC Sports Medicine team also urges stretches that work the muscles in the:

  • Front of the thighs (quadriceps)
  • Back of the thighs (hamstrings)
  • Calves

If your knee pain symptoms don't improve — or if you have swelling around the knee joint — call your doctor right away. You might need surgery to repair the tear in your patellar tendon.

Patellar tendonitis rehab

To get back to your sport more quickly and help prevent future knee damage, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy and exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee.

A few exercises for patellar tendonitis rehab include:

  • Knee extensions — using a leg extension resistance-training machine.
  • Knee flexion — using a leg flexion resistance-training machine.
  • Half-knee bends (half squats).

With each exercise, start at a level that causes no pain. Slowly add resistance each session.

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