Patella tendinopathy of the knee is a common issue related largely to overuse. The condition refers to inflammation within the tendon at the knee cap. Also known as ‘jumpers’ knee’ the common overuse injury is a result of your patella tendon being overused during exercise.
The knee joint as shown above is made up largely of the quadricep muscles and the ligaments holding the joint. The quadricep muscles are responsible for straightening the knee and pushing the body up into the air as well as controlling the motion of bending the knee. An example of this is a squat movement. If there is an underlying weakness with the quads or an increased load being placedthrough them the tendon will become overused and inflamed.
- Pain that is made worse by running or jumping type movements
- Pain in the front of the knee, normally just below or over the knee cap
- Gradual increase of pain often due to increased activity level
- Tenderness round the knee cap
- The knee feels stiff in the morning (worse symptoms than in the afternoon/evening)
- The affected tendon may also be slightly thicker in comparison to the opposite leg
Initially, the pain may only be subtle and may not be felt in all movements if this is left untreated it will manifest to a more painful state where simple movements such as climbing stairs or rising from a chair become painful.
Tendon injuries normally occur due to repetitive motions and overuse therefore anyone can have a tendon injury although those who complete sports or working activities that involves the same movements or high load movements will be a greater risk.
All tendons are made to withstand high loads placed on them although when the load is high and repetitive the threshold of the tendons is broken and inflammation is caused through a number of tiny tears in the tendon itself. If this lasts a few weeks it is often referred to as tendinopathy which causes the painful symptoms as above.
These risk factors are associated and may be a contributor to the development of jumper’s knee.
- Tightness in the Quadriceps – Tension within overworked muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings) increased strain placed on the patella tendon.
- Muscle imbalance – when certain muscles in your legs/hip are muscle stronger than others is can cause further load to be stress over the tendon.
- Physical activity– managing training increases progressively – running and jumping are mainly associated with knee pain. Try to avoid sudden increases in training levels.
- Illness – in rare cases there are some chronic illness than can cause weakness within the tendon. Some examples are; kidney failure, autoimmune disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
To reduce your chance of getting patella tendon issues here are 3 steps you can use for prevention:
Strong core and lower limbs – ensure you have strong core and lower limb muscles especially in your quads and hamstrings. This will reduce strain on the tendon.
Don’t play though pain – as soon as you begin to feel abnormality within the knee around the knee you should stop and rest, apply ice to the area and avoid activities that provoke the pain.
Improve training techniques – ensure you are training in the correct way, whether it is exercises or training loads.
You should seek medical advice when:
- Your pain continues or worsens
- Interferes with your ability to perform routine daily activities
- Is associated with swelling or redness at the join in the knee