The patella tendon is a broad flat tendon that runs from the patella (knee-cap) to the boney lump on the shin (tibial tuberosity). It is commonly injured in jumping athletes such as basketballers and volleyballers due to the repetitive jumping and associated tendon strain with these sports.
Jumping causes high compressive and tensile loading of the patella tendon and repetitive microtrauma (repetitive strain) which can result in tendon overload and pain.
Patients with patella tendinopathy complain of pain under the knee-cap or directly over the patella tendon. There may be associated swelling around the tendon and patients often report symptoms of morning stiffness that eases with movement.
Recent research has shown that patients with chronic tendon pain do not have inflammatory cells within the tendon, hence we should no longer call this condition ‘tendinitis’ rather tendonopathy.
These unhealthy tendons loose their ability to tolerate loading therefore the mainstay of recovering from this disabling condition involves a gradual strengthening program. Consisting initially of isometrics progressing through to sports specific drills. Three months of rehabilitation is a common timeframe to recover from chronic patellar tendonopathy. It may take some patients up to six months to complete the full program and return to sport.