Patellar tendinitis is inflammation of the patellar (knee) tendon. This tendon connects the patella (kneecap) to the lower leg bone (tibia).
Patellar tendinitis occurs from overuse of the knee tendon. Overuse may be caused by any activity that requires:
- Intense running
- Frequent stops and starts
- Frequent impact to the knee
Patellar tendinitis is more common in the following sports:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition or injury. Risk factors for patellar tendinitis include:
- An increase in the frequency of training
- A sudden increase in the intensity of training
- Changing from one sport to another
- Training on a hard surface
- Repeated improper movements while training
- Muscle weakness or imbalance
- Pain and tenderness in the patellar tendon below the knee
- Pain or "tightness" in the knee when bending, squatting, or straightening the leg
- Discomfort in the knee when jumping, running, or walking
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The doctor will also examine your knee, and may ask you to perform certain movements.
Tests may include:
- X-Ray–to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms
Ice–Apply ice or a cold pack to the knee for 15-20 minutes, every 4 hours, for 2-3 days. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.
Medication–First consult your doctor if you have any questions about using medications. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that are commonly used to help reduce inflammation and pain include:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Infra-Patellar Strap–This strap (also called a counterforce brace) can help support the tendon and reduce pain. It is worn as a band just below the knee.
Physical Therapy–Physical therapy will help:
- Stretch and condition the quadriceps muscle, which attaches to the patella
- Maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance
Cortisone Injections–If the treatments above do not reduce inflammation, some doctors may recommend that you consider a cortisone injection. (This should be reserved for chronic tendonitis that has not responded to other treatments that have been intensively tried for at least 2 months.) Check with your doctor to determine what is best in your case. Avoid repeated cortisone injections.
Resuming Exercise–Return to high-impact physical activity gradually. Sufficient healing has occurred when:
- The knee can bend and straighten without pain.
- You are able to jump on the injured leg without pain.
- You are able to jog in a straight line without pain.
- Swelling is gone.
- Normal strength of the quadriceps muscles has returned.
Surgery–Surgery may be necessary if there is:
- Advanced inflammatory damage to the tendon
- Little or no response to other treatments over a 6-12 month period
During surgery, the damaged portion of the patella tendon will be removed through a small incision in the skin. Eventually, scar tissue will form and repair this damaged area.
Patellar tendinitis may be prevented by:
- Avoiding activities and sports that repeatedly stress the kneecaps
- Increasing the frequency and intensity of exercise gradually
- Regularly doing quadricep muscle stretching and strengthening exercises