Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee) in Sport
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Typically there are three phases to recovery from a tendonitis. These are initially allowing an appropriate length of time of relative rest for the acute irritation to settle. This is especially important if there is severe pain. The second phase is to build up the strength and capacity of the tendon. The final phase is the gradually reintroduce sport, or the aggravating activity. The fastest way to recover from patellar tendonitis is to follow these phases. What delays a lot of people with this injury is trying to continue with their sport, while adding the advised exercises and not providing enough opportunity for rest and recovery of the tendon.
Tendonitis is an overload and degeneration of the tendon, which is a spectrum. At one end the tendon is functional and healthy and at the other end the tendon is torn and dysfunctional. Symptoms for both are similar in terms of pain and stiffness, a significant difference is the function. With a tear there will be some weakness up to complete loss of ability to straighten the knee joint with a complete rupture, whereas with tendonitis function is maintained although it may be painful.
In some cases if the tendon pain is ignored and the load on the tendon is not reduced, it is possible for it to degenerate further and develop into a tear. This is rare, a usually occurs over a long period of time. Patellar tendon tears and ruptures are far more rare than in the Achilles tendon.
There are several rehabilitation protocols for strengthening a patella tendon. The most current advised treatment plan is a heavy slow resistance training protocol (Kongsgaard et al 2009). This rehab protocol includes three double leg exercises: squat, hack squat and leg press. Four sets of these are to be completed three times per week with increasing weight and decreasing repetitions. This protocol was shown to be more effective than eccentric exercises and corticosteroid injections.
In most cases walking is ok for tendonitis. It is best to avoid excessive time walking or walking down hill, as this is likely to aggravate symptoms. In most cases it will be activity that poses a higher load on the tendon that will increase pain, such as running, jumping or weight lifting.
As symptoms can be individual it is best to check how your knee responds to walking with a small amount before gradually testing it with longer distances or time.
Patella tendonitis typically lasts for 6-12 weeks. The recovery time is dependent on the rehabilitation and recovery taken, as well as the general health of the individual. Recovery time will be increased if there is poor blood circulation, so if the individual smokes or has diabetes.
This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.