What is Jumper’s Knee?
Jumper’s knee, also known as patellar tendinopathy, is a knee injury that occurs when a great deal of stress from jumping and changing direction is repeatedly forced onto the patella tendon or ligament, which attaches the kneecap to the shin bone (tibia). Over time, the tendon develops tiny tears and the collagen degenerates. Although many athletes continue to train and compete with jumper’s knee, the injury can worsen over time, become chronic, and require surgery.
Symptoms of Jumper’s Knee
Jumper’s knee has four grades of severity: pain only after training (grade 1), pain both before and after training but that resolves once you warm up (grade 2), pain that limits your performance during training (grade 3), and pain during daily activities (grade 4).
Individuals who have jumper’s knee experience pain at the bottom and front of the kneecap, especially when someone presses on it. Pain when the quadriceps muscles are contracted is also common, as is weakness in the calf, and aching and stiffness after exertion. You may also notice that the affected tendon appears larger than the unaffected one.
How to Treat Jumper’s Knee
Athletes who have jumper’s knee should rest from training and seek help from a sports injury specialist who can develop a rehabilitation program. If the injury is mild to moderate, training can be modified to reduce impact and jumping activities. Cold packs should be applied regularly, especially after exercise, and wearing a knee support or a jumpers knee strap is recommended. Strengthening the quadriceps is critical, as this can optimize recovery from jumper’s knee. Strengthening the calf muscles is important as well. Other treatment options include massage, ultrasound or laser treatment, and use of anti-inflammatory drugs. If the knee does not respond to therapy, surgery may be necessary, but it is usually considered the last resort.