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Patellar Tendonitis

Pain is the first symptom of patellar tendinitis. The pain usually is located in the section of your patellar tendon between your kneecap (patella) and the area where the tendon attaches to your shinbone (tibia). A condition often called “Jumpers Knee.” The pain may feel sharp — especially when running or jumping. After a workout or practice, the pain may persist as a dull ache.

How can I prevent patellar tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis is usually caused by overuse during activities such as jumping or running. It can best be prevented by stretching and strengthening your thigh muscles. 

When can I return to my sport or activity?

The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury, which could lead to prolonged pain. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to your activity will be determined by how soon your knee recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred. In general, the longer that you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take you to get better. 

You may safely return to your sport or activity when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true: 

  • Your injured knee can be fully straightened and bent without pain 
  • Your knee and leg have regained normal strength compared to the uninjured knee and leg 
  • Your knee is not swollen 
  • You are able to jog straight ahead without limping 
  • You are able to sprint straight ahead without limping 
  • You are able to do 45 degree cuts 
  • You are able to do 90 degree cuts 
  • You are able to do 20 yard figure-eight runs 
  • You are able to do 10 yard figure-eight runs 
  • You are able to jump on both legs without pain, and jump on the injured leg without pain 

Rehabilitation Exercises

You may start doing exercise 1 as soon as it is not too painful to move your kneecap. You can do the hamstring stretch (exercise 2) right away. When the pain in your knee has decreased, you can do the quadriceps stretch and start strengthening the thigh muscles using exercises 4 through 6. 

  1. Patellar Mobility
    Sit with your injured leg outstretched in front of you and the muscles on top of your thigh relaxed. Take your index finger and thumb, and gently press your kneecap down toward your foot. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Next, pull your kneecap up toward your waist and hold it for 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Then, try to gently push your kneecap inward toward your other leg, and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat these for approximately 5 minutes. 
  2. Hamstring Stretch
    Stand with the heel of your injured leg resting on a stool that is about 15 inches high. Keep your knee straight. Gently lean forward from your hips, keeping your shoulders in line with your trunk, until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the starting position. Do not round your shoulders or bring your head toward your toe, as this will only stretch your lower back and not your hamstrings. Repeat 3 times.
  3. Quadriceps Stretch
    Stand an arm’s length from a wall, facing straight ahead. Brace yourself by keeping the hand on the uninjured side against the wall. With your other hand, grasp the ankle of the injured leg and pull your heel up towards your buttocks. Do not arch or twist your back. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  4. Quadriceps Set
    Sit on the floor with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Try to tighten the muscles at the top of your thigh by pushing the back of your knee down into the floor. Concentrate your contraction on the inside part of your thigh. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
  5. Straight Leg Raise
    Sit on the floor with your injured leg straight and your other leg bent, with your foot flat on the floor. Move the toes of your injured leg toward you as far as you can, while pressing the back of your knee down and tightening the muscles on the top of your thigh. Raise your leg 6-8 inches off the floor and hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower it back to the floor. Repeat 20 times.
  6. Weight Lifting (Leg extension)
    Do these if you have access to a weight lifting bench with a leg extension attachment. Sit on the bench with the weight attachment in front of your lower legs. Extend your knees by straightening your legs. Be sure that your legs straighten completely. The last 15 degrees of extension are the most important. Use enough weight to cause fatigue, but not pain. Do three sets of 10.