What is a patella tendinopathy?
Patella/ quads tendinopathy, or more commonly known as Jumper’s knee, is pain above or below the knee and is usually associated with individuals involved in high impact jumping sports such as volleyball and basketball. It involves changes to the tendons around the knee cap which help to transmit forces from the muscles to the bones and is normally caused by repetitive jumping or high impact activities.
When do I know if I have Patella Tendinopathy or Jumper’s Knee?
Signs and symptoms of a patella tendinopathy may include:
- Pain felt just above or just below the knee cap
- Pain when squatting, going up or down stairs
- Pain worse when doing jumping or quicker movements such as kicking
- Tenderness when palpating just above or below the knee cap
- Unable to put pressure on the knee cap in activities such as kneeling
- Pain and stiffness in the knee when getting up after sitting for a prolonged time
How is Patella Tendinopathy diagnosed and managed?
It is usually diagnosed through a history taking and physical examination carried out by a Doctor or Physiotherapist. Depending on the severity of the pain, the medical specialist might order some films or do a bedside ultrasound scan to help determine the extent of the condition. In most cases however, a scan is not needed and a Physiotherapist will be able to manage your condition safely and effectively. However, in some situations where pain is more severe, the specialist might recommend a steroid injection to help manage the pain.
How can Physiotherapy help?
The Physiotherapist will carry out an assessment of the knee, hip and ankle region. This would include an assessment of the range of movements in the lower limbs, examining your movement postures as well as your strength. The role of the Physiotherapist is to help with determining what movements are most suited to your current level and to allow you to participate in daily activities or sport as pain-free as possible.
Signs and symptoms of a patellofemoral pain may include:
- Advise and education pertaining to your condition
- Soft tissue therapy
- Movement with mobilisation
- Heat therapy
- Dry needling
- Shockwave therapy
- Taping to offload the quads or patella tendons
- Movement training
- Returning to sport training
- Personalised home exercise program
What type of exercises should I be doing if I have patella tendinopathy?
The general rule of patellar tendinopathy is to avoid high impact activities such as running, jumping or hopping. However, high impact activities can still be allowed if pain levels are generally low and there is no acute inflammatory process ongoing. The initial stages will usually involve strengthening through isometric activities, meaning having to hold a position under load without any movement. It will then progress into introducing movement with weights and eventually re-introducing higher impact movement.
Can I still participate in sport if I have patellar tendinopathy?
Yes, it is still possible to participate in sport as patellar tendons tend to have what is termed as a ‘warm-up effect’ meaning that it will generally feel less painful after movement. However, the physical load needs to be closely monitored as sudden spikes can cause the tendon to be more irritable and painful.