Jumper’s knee is a painful condition caused by overusing your knee joint. It is often sports-related and may be due to frequent jumping on hard surfaces. The contraction of your leg muscles combined with the force of hitting the ground can result in inflammation of the tendon and may cause jumper’s knee.
What is jumper’s knee?
Also known as patellar tendonitis, jumper’s knee is inflammation of the patellar tendon which connects your kneecap (patella) to your shin bone (patella). Your patellar tendon, patella, quadriceps tendon and quadriceps muscles are referred to as the knee extensor mechanism and are used for straightening your knee when you run or jump.
When the patellar tendon is subjected to repeated and intensive high impact activities like jumping it can become inflamed and painful – a condition known as tendonitis. If it is not allowed to heal fully, the tendon may become weak and thickened, which is known as tendinopathy. If left untreated, the tendon can tear, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for jumper’s knee early on to avoid serious and long-term problems.
Who is at risk?
Jumper’s knee is an overuse injury that is particularly common among athletes, especially those whose sports involve jumping, such as volleyball and basketball players. It can also affect people who regularly participate in running, squatting and climbing and it is most common in men. Ageing increases the risk and you may also be susceptible if you are overweight or have diabetes or high cholesterol. Suddenly increasing the intensity or frequency of training sessions, starting a new sport or failing to warm up properly before training can all lead to a heightened risk of jumper’s knee.
Symptoms of jumper’s knee
Jumper’s knee causes pain at the front of the knee around the kneecap which is normally worse when you walk or go downstairs or after periods of inactivity. Your knee may feel particularly stiff first thing in the morning and this may gradually improve as you move around.
Anything that requires a large contraction of the quadriceps muscles, such as squats or lunges, or impact activities like running or jumping tends to aggravate the symptoms of jumper’s knee. The pain is often better during activity but intensifies again afterwards. Your knee may feel tender when you press on the tendon at the front of your knee just below your kneecap and the area may appear swollen. You may feel pain when bending or straightening your leg.
The symptoms of jumper’s knee normally develop gradually as they are associated with repeatedly overloading the tendon.
Other conditions are commonly associated with jumper’s knee including a meniscal tear, patellofemoral (kneecap) pain, prepatellar bursitis and osteoarthritis of the knee.
How is jumper’s knee diagnosed?
Following a physical examination which may involve being asked to make a range of movements to test the flexibility, strength and pain levels in your knee, you will normally be referred for a diagnostic ultrasound. This provides real-time images of the inside of your knee and allows us to see the tendon structure and assess if there is inflammation or any tears in your patellar tendon. Using ultrasound, we can confirm the severity of your condition and whether any other structures – such as the meniscus – are affected.
Treatments for jumper’s knee
It is important to begin treatment for jumper’s knee as early as possible to ensure the best chances of making a full recovery and avoid long-term problems. You will need to rest to allow your tendon to heal and you may need to modify your activities. Hip and knee strengthening exercises recommended by a physiotherapist can help to speed your recovery and you may need to use taping to support the patellar tendon during sport.
If the condition fails to heal with conservative treatment, you may be offered ultrasound-guided injections of corticosteroids into the affected area to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Platelet-rich plasma injections, using ultrasound to ensure accurate positioning, are also recommended as an effective treatment for jumper’s knee. PRP supports the body’s natural healing process and speeds the recovery of damaged tendons. It requires extracting a small sample of your own blood which is then spun at high speed in a centrifuge to separate the PRP from other blood molecules. The PRP is injected in and around the patellar tendon to treat the pain of jumper’s knee.
If you would like more information about diagnostic imaging for jumper’s knee as well as ultrasound-guided injections for the condition, please contact us.
If you have suffered a sporting injury, whether due to an accident or as a result of long-term damage, contact W27 for specialist advice and diagnosis.
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