Patellar tendinopathy

by Tariq Dossa – Registered Massage Therapist, BSc (Kin), RMT, CSCS

Patellar tendinopathy is a common condition encountered in sports medicine. Patellar tendinopathy is commonly referred to as “jumper’s knee”. However, this term is misleading as this condition is found in a wide variety of athletes, many of who do not partake in activities that include jumping.

Unfortunately, its origin and development are poorly understood, and thus it is a troublesome condition that is difficult to treat. It is considered an overuse injury characterized by activity-related, anterior (front)  knee pain associated with focal patellar-tendon tenderness just inferior (below) the patella.

Figure 1: Patellar tendinosis (jumper’s knee)

Figure from http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/img/248Efig1.PNG

Patellar tendinopathy is degenerative by nature and thus even if asymptomatic, tendon damage can be present. If the tissue is not allowed to fully recover, injury is is inevitable.

In individuals with short duration of symptoms complete recovery may take two to three months. In chronic cases, patellar tendinopathy recovery can be four to six months. As a result, it forces many athletes to limit their training and competition levels for prolonged periods of time, which in turn impairs performance. Perhaps as many as 33% of athletes are unable to participate in sport for more than six months and an estimated 10% of athletes with patellar symptomatic tendinopathy have to undergo surgery. Clearly, this condition can adversely affect the quality and longevity of participation in sport.

Conservative symptom management is typically attempted via the application of ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, taping and braces. Electrophysical modalities such as ultrasound, laser, and electrical stimulation are also used. In some cases local corticosteroid injection is beneficial. The literature finds that a combination of manual therapy and remedial exercise can very effectively manage patellar tendinopathy.

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