What is jumper’s knee?
Jumper’s knee is inflammation or micro-tears in the tendon that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone. It is also called patellar tendinopathy.
Tendons, are strong bands of connective tissue that attach muscle to bone. When a tendon is acutely injured it is called a strain. Tendonitis is when a tendon is inflamed. When there are micro-tears in a tendon from repeated injury it is called tendinosis. Tendinopathy is the term for both inflammation and micro-tears.
How does it occur?
Activities that put repeated stress on the patellar tendon can cause it to be inflamed. Too much jumping is the most common cause. Other repeated activities such as running, walking, or bicycling may also cause the problem.
Jumper’s knee can also happen if your hips, legs, knees, or feet are not aligned properly. People whose hips are wide, who are knock-kneed, or who have feet with arches that collapse when they walk or run can have this problem.
The patellar tendon may sometimes rupture or tear completely during strenuous activity.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- pain and tenderness around the patellar tendon
- swelling in your knee joint or swelling where the patellar tendon attaches to the shinbone
- pain with jumping, running, or walking, especially downhill or downstairs
- pain when you bend or straighten the leg
- tenderness behind the kneecap
If your patellar tendon is ruptured, usually you will have sudden severe pain and you will not be able to straighten your leg or walk.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine your knee. He or she will also have you run, jump, or squat to see if this causes pain. Your feet will be examined to see if you have a problem with over-pronation. You may have X-rays or an MRI of your knee.
How is it treated?
To treat this condition:
- Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- Elevate your knee on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
- Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover. Your healthcare provider will show you exercises to help decrease the pain behind your kneecap.
Your healthcare provider may suggest that you:
- Wear shoe inserts (called orthotics) for over-pronation. You can buy orthotics at a pharmacy or athletic shoe store or they can be custom-made.
- Use an infrapatellar strap, a strap placed beneath the kneecap over the patellar tendon.
- Wear a neoprene knee sleeve, which supports your knee and patella.
While you recover from your injury, you will need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse. For example, bicycle or swim instead of run.
In severe cases, you may need surgery.
How long will the effects it last?
A tendon that is only mildly inflamed and has just started to hurt may improve within a few weeks. A tendon that is significantly inflamed and has been painful for a long time may take up to a few months to improve. You need to stop doing the activities that cause pain until your tendon has healed. If you continue doing activities that cause pain, your symptoms will return and it will take longer to recover.
When can I return to my normal activities?
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your knee recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may safely return to your normal activities when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
- you can straighten and bend your injured knee without pain
- your knee and leg are as strong as your uninjured knee and leg
- your knee is not swollen
- you are able bend, walk, and squat without pain
How can I prevent jumper’s knee?
Jumper’s knee can best be prevented by having strong thigh muscles. It also helps to stretch before and after exercising, and wear shoes that fit properly and are right for the activity.
Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.