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Jumper's Knee

Jumper's knee is another name for patellar tendonitis which is an injury to the tick tendon at the front of the knee.

What is Jumper's Knee?

Patellar Tendonitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is an injury to the thick tendon at the front of the knee that attaches the knee cap to the shin bone. It is usually caused by repetitive movements such as kicking or jumping, or from overuse of the knee through movements like lunging in sports like tennis, badminton and basketball.

Patellar tendonitis will normally build up gradually over time. At first, it may feel like a little bit of discomfort when the tendon attaches to the shin bone but if left untreated the pain can become worse.

Fortunately, jumper's knee can be addressed with a few simple changes to your training and recovery program.

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We strongly recommend that you have any suspected injuries fully assessed by a medical professional.

These tests are designed to help identify if you may have an injury and are not proof of injury

 

The “Royal London” test.

  • Lying down with the leg extended out in front of you.
  • Using your thumb, palpate the patellar tendon to find the area that is particularly tender.
  • Apply moderate pressure to the tendon and at the same time bend the knee to 90°.
  • Palpate the same area of the tendon that was painful.

If the pain is less or completely absent when the knee is bent then it is likely that you have patellar tendonitis.

What does patellar tendonitis feel like?

You will feel it in the Patellar tendon at the front of the knee. At the bottom of the knee cap, there is a thick tendon that joins the knee cap to the front of the shin. The most common location for the pain is where the tendon attaches to bone, either at the base of the knee cap or the top of the Tibia (shinbone).

It will be a gradual build-up of pain unless there has been a big injury such as a slip, trip or fall. It will start as a discomfort in the front of the knee as you begin exercising or high-intensity training. Over time the level of pain will start to increase becoming quite sharp reducing the amount of force you can put through the knee.

Extending the knee. Exercises such as kicking, running and jumping can cause irritation to the tendon. If the pain worsens it will become sore with simple daily tasks like climbing stairs or standing up from sitting.

 

What causes patellar tendonitis?

Stress on a tendon through tasks such as high-intensity exercise, jumping and kicking will cause tiny tears in the tendon which your body repairs during the recovery phase of your training program. Through overuse or inadequate recovery, these small tears multiply and compound causing pain, inflammation and weakness. If this occurs over 2-3 weeks it then becomes a tendinopathy.

  • Increase in training intensity. A sudden increase in how often you train or the level of intensity, without the correct build-up, is one of the leading contributing factors to patellar tendonitis.
  • Change of footwear. Changing running shoes or introducing orthotics can cause pain in the knee and contribute to jumper’s knee. This is because it changes the lower limb mechanics and the weight distribution through the knee. If you are doing either of these then it is best to adjust your training to allow the body to adapt.
  • Tight quads and hamstrings. Tight quad muscles (all or just one) can increase the strain on the knee cap and subsequently, the patellar tendon. Equally, tight hamstrings will impact the knee mechanics and apply additional pressure behind the knee to the bones of the lower leg.
  • Muscular imbalance. An imbalance will normally occur after injury, returning from a period of rest, or taking up a new sport or your biomechanics. If any of the muscles in your legs are stronger than the others, they will pull harder on your patellar tendon. This uneven pull and distribution of force could cause tendinitis.

 

How to treat jumper's knee.

To manage an acute flare-up of patellar tendonitis you are best to follow the P.O.L.I.C.E. protocol;

  • P: Protect the area. This can be changing footwear to something more supportive like wearing a knee brace.
  • OL: Optimal Loading. Take as much weight as you can without making things worse. You may need rest, different footwear or crutches.
  • I: Ice the area for 20 minutes at a time to relieve inflammation.
  • C: Compress the area with a soft wrap to reduce swelling.
  • E: Elevate the area by putting the foot on a few pillows.

Reduce impact base exercise or anything that will irritate the knee. If there are any tears in the tendon it can take around 3-6 weeks to settle down and up to 4-6 months to be fully healed.

Supportive knee bracing can help to alleviate symptoms and support the knee cap. To achieve the full benefits you should use one for 3-6 weeks.

 

Exercises to help jumper's knee.

Hamstring stretch

  • Sit on the ground with one leg bent to 90° and the other straight out in front.
  • Bend your knee all the way up so you can grab your toes.
  • Straighten the leg as far as you feel comfortable
  • If you need to you can bend forward at the hips but try to avoid rounding your back.

Frequency and duration 

  • Hold for 30 seconds for each leg
  • Complete this frequently throughout the day or for a more structured approach, 3 sets of 30 seconds on each leg 4 times a day.

Alternatives

  • Easier - use a towel around the foot

Quad stretch

  • Lie on your front on the ground.
  • Bend your knee behind you and support with your hand.
  • Gently pull your foot towards your bum.
  • Press the front of your hip and knee into the ground

Frequency and duration 

  • Hold for 30 seconds for each leg
  • Complete this frequently throughout the day or for a more structured approach, 3 sets of 30 seconds on each leg 4 times a day.

Alternatives

  • Easier - use a towel around the foot
  • Harder - perform in standing or side-lying

Ski squats

This exercise is designed to improve single-leg strength.

  • Start with your back against the wall and your knees slightly bent in a half squat position.
  • Lower into a deeper squat and at the same time shift your weight over to the right leg.
  • Return to the centre in the half squat position
  • Lower into a deeper squat this time shift your weight over to the left leg.

Frequency and duration

Starting from the centre:

  • Lower for a count of 3 seconds
  • Hold for a count of 2 seconds
  • return to the centre for a count of 3 seconds.
  • 3x sets of 12 on each leg

Alternatives 

  • Easier - reduce how far you slide over to the left/right
  • Harder - Make the squat deeper and hold for a count of 4 seconds.

 

Single leg step up

This exercise is designed to improve leg strength and neuromuscular control.

  • Stand with one foot planted on a step or a block and your arms by your side
  • Step onto the block driving your knee through to 90°.
  • Hold at the top then reverse the movement lowering your leg back down till your foot is back on the floor.

Frequency and duration.

  • Step up for the count of 2 seconds.
  • Hold at the top for a count of 2 seconds.
  • lower down for a count of 2 seconds
  • 3x sets of 10 on each leg

Alternatives 

  • Easier - step on to the box then step down off the box like marching.
  • Harder - hold weights in your hands

Supine leg lifts

This exercise strengthens muscles in your quadriceps and your hip flexors as a collective group.

  • Lie on the ground on your back.
  • Pull your foot towards you & engage your quads.
  • Push your lower back into the ground, and engage your core and trunk muscles.
  • Lift your leg off the ground as far as you can without arching your lower back.
  • slowly lower your leg back down.

Frequency and duration 

  • Raise for a count of 3 seconds.
  • Hold for a count of 2 seconds.
  • Lower for a count of 2 seconds.
  • 3x sets of 12 on each leg.

Alternatives

  • Easier - bend the knee on the resting leg planting the foot on the ground.

The information on this site is intended for educational purposes.

You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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