Jumper’s Knee, or as termed medically Patellar tendinitis or Patellar tendonitis is an injury or a type of inflammation of the tendon, a structure that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia). The patellar tendon usually works with muscles at the front of the thigh to extend the knee so that one can kick, run and jump without any hinges or problems. Due to the sudden jerk, the muscle gets a pull which often results in a tear causing moderate to intense pain.
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Although anyone can get this inflamed condition, it is most commonly witnessed in athletes who are commonly involved in sports which require frequent jumping as in the case of volleyball or basketball, thus the name ‘jumper’s knee’.
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Jumper’s Knee is a common overuse injury and usually happens due to repeated stress on the patellar tendon or the kneecap resulting in tiny tears in the tendon. With more exertion when these tears increase in number, it exudes immense pain due to inflammation and weakening of the tendon. With increased time, if the tendon doesn’t repair, the condition may get complicated into tendinopathy.
The causative factors that increase the risk of getting jumper’s knee include:
- Tight leg muscles including thigh muscles and hamstrings
- Hard playing surfaces
- Uneven muscle strength on both legs
- Shoes without proper padding
- Misalignment of feet, ankles or legs
- Chronic conditions that weaken the legs like kidney failure, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.
The common signs and symptoms of this intense inflamed condition include:
- Pain and tenderness at the base of the kneecap
- Swelling in the kneecap
- Feeling of burning
- Feeling pain while trying to kneel or getting up from a squat
Although initially, the pain may be sporadic, i.e. occurring only after exercise or during any sports activity, with time, the damage to the tendons increases causing chronic pain even when trying to walk up the stairs or get up from a sitting position.
Diagnosis And Treatment
On observing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor immediately to get treated soon. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup and may apply pressure to the different parts of the knee to analyse if you feel any pain followed by conducting some diagnostics which include:
X-ray: A proper X-ray is done to exclude other interfering bone problems that may cause knee pain.
MRI-scan: This imaging technique uses magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images that are able to reveal even minute changes in the patellar tendon.
Ultrasound: The sound waves used in this test creates an image of the knee, revealing the tears in the patellar tendon.
Treatment options usually depend upon anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications that may reduce swelling, inflammation and provide short-term relief from the pain exuding from patellar tendinitis.
The doctor may also suggest some therapies that reduce the symptoms associated with jumper’s knee. These include:
Stretching and strengthening exercises: This slowly reduces muscle spasm, helps stretch the muscle-tendon unit, reduces strain and strengthens the muscles of the leg.
Iontophoresis: This technique involves applying a corticosteroid cream over the patella and using a device to deliver a low electrical charge to push the medication through the skin.
Patellar tendon strap: The physiotherapist uses a strap to apply pressure on the patellar tendon so as to distribute the force away from the tendon and direct it through the strap instead.
If conventional therapies and topical or oral medications don’t provide much relief, the doctor may suggest other therapies including:
- Platelet-rich plasma injection
- Corticosteroid injection
- Oscillating needle procedure