Patella tendinopathy, more commonly known as jumpers’ knee, is a knee injury that involves the tendon running from the kneecap to the shin bone. Due to the nature of the injury, patella tendinopathy is primarily seen in a younger, more athletic population. That does not mean it can’t affect others too.
The patella tendon is an extension of the quadriceps tendon and runs from the inferior pole of the patella to the tibial tuberosity on the shin bone. Its primary function is to transfer force to and from the quadriceps to the tibia to create movement and accept load. Like any other tendon it is constructed of dense connective tissue, designed to resist tensile forces. Although a tendon rupture is possible, it is also very uncommon. The more common injury to occur to the patella tendon is a tendinopathy.
A tendinopathy is generally caused by an overload or overuse of the tendon from a sudden or unexpected increase in loading of the tendon. With a gradual loading of the tendon, micro-damage will occur, and the tendon is able to repair that damage and become stronger. With a sudden spike in activity or a constant overuse, that tendon is unable to repair the micro-damage before further damage occurs. Having this loading repeated over and over or if the spike is loading is too great, a tendinopathy can occur. Other factors such as diet, stress, sleep, and weight also play a factor in a development of a tendinopathy.
Management of a tendinopathy works on two main principles:
1) modifying aggravating activities
2) a gradual loading program to increase tendon tolerance.
There are other things a person can do to help manage symptoms or make the rehab process easier but management will generally boil down to those two main principles. A patient will need to modify aggravating activities or the symptoms with be constantly becoming aggravated. This looks different for different people. Some may require a short period of complete rest; however, most will need to reduce the amount, the frequency or intensity of your activity to a level that the tendon can handle for a short period. Rest alone will not resolve a tendinopathy. It may reduce the symptoms but often when you return to activity the problem returns. A gradual loading program is required to help strengthen the tendon and allow it to tolerate the demands of your chosen activity. There is no one magic exercise that will help settle your patella tendinopathy pain. A thorough assessment of your lower limp biomechanics is undertaken when we first see you. This allows us to develop a personalised rehabilitation program for you.