What is it?
You might have heard it referred to as “jumpers’ knee” and it’s true that it disproportionately affects athletes in sports that involve a lot of jumping and landing. In fact, it’s estimated that around 40% of elite volleyball and basketball players suffer from Patella Tendinopathy (Yikes!). But anyone can get it. Patella Tendinopathy is the result of microscopic tears in the tendon surrounding your patella (your kneecap).
The tendon’s job is to transmit force from the quadriceps (thigh muscles) to the tibia (shin bone), producing movement in the knee joint. (Translation – the muscles in your thigh allow you to straighten your legs via your knee.) This should all work smoothly enough except that the tendon can be damaged through overuse. Particularly through the sudden, high-intensity, high-velocity, fast-acceleration sort of use we see in basketball games. Landing positions also count, which is why flat feet, improper footwear, and/or any misalignment of the feet, legs, hip, and back are also risk factors. The result is pain just below and in front of the knee at the connection of the knee and shin.
At first, you might just feel the pain of Patella Tendinopathy while exercising and afterwards. (Interestingly, it might hurt less mid-workout once you’re warmed up but come back with a vengeance later.) Left untreated it can start to hurt anytime you need to straighten your legs, like walking up (or particularly, down) the stairs or going from sitting to standing. There doesn’t tend to be a big inflammation response so there’s no swollen knee to ice and heal. Indeed, the injury might not even hurt unless the joint is bearing some sort of load, so it’s dangerously easy to ignore. But the micro-tears can grow into bigger tears with repeated injurious use.
What can you do about it?
Lucky for you, we are here to help. Your osteopath will work with you to reduce pain, improve performance, and keep your knees healthy for the long term. After all, there won’t be a time in your life when your knees don’t need to bear some load – just taking the stairs puts 3.5 times your body weight of force through your knee joints – so taking care of them should be a priority for everyone who wants to keep moving, not just athletes!
The good news is that tendons strengthen and heal through exercise. Unfortunately, they tend to heal more slowly than muscles. But the big take-away is that load is good! (The stair thing might have been scary – sorry about that.) Load is very good, as the blood flow that comes with strengthening the tendon also gets it healing. Since there’s not usually a big inflammatory response to Patella Tendinopathy, we know there’s not a big healing blood flow response either. So anything we can do to kickstart the healing process will have immediate benefit long before true tendon strength gains are achieved. What we don’t want is an excessive load on the joint. And we really don’t want sudden movement onsets while bearing heavy loads during this pain-relief/strengthening process. Your osteopath will work with you to relieve pain, realign your body, and heal and strengthen the tendon for the best possible outcomes.
So, if a niggling pain is holding you back when playing your favourite sport or even if you just dread taking those stairs, call today for an appointment. We at Beachealth are confident we can guide you to a stronger, more agile future, free of pain from Patella Tendinopathy. Please call to make an appointment on (416) 546-4887 or online. We are always here and happy to help.
- Bahr, R. et al. 2006. Surgical Treatment Compared with Eccentric Training for Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee). The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 88-A:8. Available from: https://www.orthotrauma.com.au/resources/Treatment-of-Patella-Tendinopathy-Jumpers-Knee.pdf#:~:text=Patellar%20tendinopathy%20%28jumper%E2%80%99s%20knee%29%20can%20severely%20limitor%20even,jumping%20sports%20as%20much%20as%20acuteknee%20injuries%20do1. Accessed 4 December 2022.
- Brukner and Khan. 2017. Clinical Sports Medicine: Injuries. 5th McGraw Hill.