What is Patella Tendinopathy ( jumper’s knee )?
Patella tendinopathy (commonly referred to as “Jumper’s knee”) is characterised by localised pain just below the kneecap. This area can be very tender to touch, painful during sporting activity and stiff and achy after exercise. Jumper’s knee is an over-use injury associated with lots of running, kicking or jumping, especially if there are associated problems with the quadriceps muscles, foot biomechanics or training techniques. Patella tendinopathy is associated with lots of strain on the tendon over a prolonged period which leads to degeneration of the collagen fibres which form the tendon. This is slightly different from patella tendinitis which infers a more acute inflammation of the tendon and can often settle with anti-inflammatory medication, the application of ice and a short period of rest.
What are the treatments available for this condition?
In extreme cases patella tendinopathy can require surgery to remove any “abnormal tissue” within the tendon but this is often a last resort. In most cases, patella tendinopathy can successfully be treated using a much less invasive approach. In the first instance, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol can help to alleviate the discomfort although NSAIDs have been reported to impede healing. If the symptoms are becoming more persistent or severe it is worth consulting a physiotherapist or osteopath who can provide hands-on treatment as well as advice on exercise and training regimes.
If the symptoms don’t respond to these measures there are a number of other options available, these include cortico-steroid injections (these can also have a negative impact on the healing process), a programme of eccentric-concentric loading exercises and extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)1.
Shockwave Therapy involves delivering acoustic shockwaves to the injured tissues to provide rapid pain relief and stimulate a healing reaction. Most patients require between 3 and 6 treatments over a 12 week period alongside a bespoke exercise programme to experience a significant improvement in their symptoms although pain relief can occur almost immediately after the first session.
Will I make a full recovery?
The vast majority of patients who suffer from patella tendinopathy are able to return to their previous activity levels once they have recovered from their symptoms but it is often worthwhile continuing with a programme of exercise to protect the area and prevent a reoccurrence of the injury.
1 van Leeuwen MT, Zwerver J, van den Akker-Scheek I
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy for patellar tendinopathy: a review of the literature
British Journal of Sports Medicine 2009;43:163-168.