Patellar Tendonitis (Jumpers Knee)
What is Jumper’s Knee and how can you tell?
Patellar Tendonitis also known as “Jumpers knee”, is an inflammation or injury of the patellar tendon; the cord-like tissue that connects the Patella (kneecap) to the Tibia (shin bone). Jumpers knee is sports specific and refers to the functional stress overload when the joint is being over used in repetitive high impact movements such as jumping, running, and fast directional change. With these repetitive high impact movements, it causes tissue damage, irritation or possible strain to the Patellar Tendon. Jumpers Knee is not gender or age specific but primarily affect those individuals with mature skeletal structures who are heavily involved in sports such as Volleyball, Basketball, Soccer, Gymnastics, and Football. Unfortunately, many of these athletes consider this as a minor ache or discomfort and they continue to train and compete with it, ignoring that Jumpers Knee is a serious condition that can get worse over time and ultimately require surgery if untreated. Early medical attention and treatment is recommended to help prevent further damage to the knee.
How to determine if you have Jumpers Knee
First, you should see a licensed physician who specializes in this field and have an evaluation to determine the grade of the injury. This will be key in formulating a perfect treatment plan of care because it will be a comprehensive and personalized plan that will be tailor made for your specific situation. During the evaluation, the physician can determine if you have Jumpers knee if you have pain directly over the Patellar Tendon (front of the knee), stiffness or instability in the knee while jumping, kneeling, running, or have pain when you’re bending the knee.
Other risk factors that can contribute to the pain associated with Jumpers Knee are increased body weight, being knock-kneed or bow-legged, having uneven limb length, and having an abnormally high or low knee-cap.
Treatments for Jumpers Knee
- Over-the-counter: Depending on the severity of the injury, Jumpers Knee can be categorized into 4 grades ranging from minor to severe. For most athletes who have a grade 1 Jumpers Knee, they try to treat the pain with over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine such as Motrin, Aleve, and Tylenol. In most cases, over the counter medicine can help with pain tolerance but it won’t solve the problem or prevent it from getting worse.
- Physical Therapy: Primarily athletes who suffer from a grade 2 Jumpers knee, they tend to take a conservative management approach such as Physical Therapy where they implement and utilize Cryotherapy, lifestyle modifications, stretching and strengthening. With Physical Therapy, athletes are applying ice 20- 30mins three times a day, decreasing their sports activity, improving flexibility by stretching, and strengthening the surrounding muscles of the knee with functional exercises to help increase stability and mobility. It is still recommended to continue to follow up with a licensed physician who specializes in joint regeneration because Physical Therapy may not solve the underlying issue of possible tissue damage.
- Prolotherapy: When athletes suffer a grade 3 Jumpers Knee, they have caused damage to the tendon with micro tears. If gone untreated, it can potentially become a grade 4 where the Patellar Tendon can tear partially or completely, which then would require surgical repair. To treat a grade 3 Jumpers knee and to prevent a grade 4, Prolotherapy can be highly beneficial. Prolotherapy also known as Regenerative Joint Injection utilizes the body’s inflammatory response (healing processes) to strengthen and repair injured joints and damaged connective tissues. This treatment is in the same category as PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) because they both act as regenerative therapy to joints. Within the healing mechanism, the body is laying down new tissue in the damaged or weakened areas. This occurs when a Licensed Physician injects the injury site with a solution containing natural substances such as Dextrose (sugar) and a local anesthetic that stimulates the healing process. The injection inhibits growth of new tendon fibers, resulting in strengthening of the weakened area.
The best method to decide which of the above treatments are best for you is to see an Osteopathic Physician who has expertise and experience in the field of Regenerative medicine. They can easily medically evaluate you and give you the best treatment options and plan of care.