Patellar tendonitis, commonly referred to as jumper’s knee, is an injury to the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone. The patellar tendon allows the knee to extend and straighten from the flexed (bent) position and is necessary for participating in activities such as running and jumping. Patellar tendonitis occurs most commonly from physical activity and frequently affects athletes involved in sports such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, dancing, gymnastics, and track and field. In the elderly, this condition commonly occurs as a result of the normal wear and tear associated with the aging process. In some rare instances, patellar tendonitis can occur as a result of trauma or injury to the knee.
Pain is the most common symptom associated with patellar tendonitis. The pain is almost always located below the kneecap and directly over the patellar tendon. The pain typically increases with physical activity and decreases with rest. Other symptoms include stiffness in the morning, swelling, tenderness over the patellar tendon, and loss of mobility.
Diagnosis for patellar tendonitis includes a physical examination. The examiner will apply pressure to various parts of the knee. If pain occurs at the front of the knee and just below the kneecap, during testing, a positive diagnosis will be given. Imaging tests such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may be required to exclude other bone problems and to reveal the extent of damage to the patellar tendon.
Patellar tendonitis is initially treated with conservative treatment options that include rest, ice, pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, plasma injections, strength and stretching exercises, physical therapy, and the use of an immobilization device such as a brace. In rare cases, surgery may be required to repair the patellar tendon.