What is Jumper’s Knee?
Patellar Tendonitis is a bit of a mouthful, so Jumper’s Knee is the term more widely used to explain the condition that causes inflammation of the patellar tendon.
This patellar tendon is a pretty important part of the knee – it’s the connecting tissue between the patella (kneecap) and the tibia, and if it gets weakened or damaged, you can end up with the pain and discomfort of Jumper’s Knee.
If you look at the bending and extending motion of the knee, you’ll understand how important the patellar tendon is. When our quad muscles in the thigh contract, this tendon moves, allowing us to kick, run, or walk.
In fact, the patellar tendon moves every time the knee bends or straightens, which means if you do a sport that involves a lot of knee action, then over the course of your playing life, Jumper’s Knee might be a condition you have to contend with.
Who Can Get Jumper’s Knee?
As you might imagine, Jumper’s Knee often afflicts people playing sports that involve a lot of jumping including basketball and volleyball. If that damage occurs during a game, you’ll normally experience pain right below the kneecap.
For basketballers, who jump up and down on a floor every match, the patellar tendon can experience a lot of mini trauma. Over time, that heavy impact can eventually lead to jumper’s knee.
What are the Physical Signs of Jumper’s Knee?
You might start to get mild inflammation and swelling of your knee, and that can be one of the first symptoms associated with Jumper’s Knee.
If you suffer damage to your patellar tendon while playing sport, redness or bruising might appear around the knee.
A sharp throbbing pain of the knee, especially after physical activity, can be another tell-tale sign that you’re dealing with jumper’s knee.
If rest and pain relief doesn’t help ease these initial signs of jumper’s knee, it’s important to stop high intensity exercise. That’s the time to get a medical examination from a sports podiatrist who specialises in treating athletes.
If you continue to train and play while suffering jumper’s knee, you may cause further injury that could extend your recovery time, with reports that some athletes have been side lined for up to a year because they returned to sport too early.
Risk Factors for Jumper’s Knee
There are certain risk factors that might make you more prone to getting jumper’s knee.
One study found that training or playing at least 12 hours of sport that involves a lot of jumping (such as basketball and volleyball) on a hard surface can increase the risk of jumper’s knee.
Ignoring warm ups
If you don’t do warm ups and stretching for 5-10 minutes before you play, you’re putting yourself at greater risk of suffering jumper’s knee.
If you suffer an acute injury of jumper’s knee, you need to rest. If you return to exercise too soon, that can make the tendon issue flair up again and potentially cause more serious damage.
Evidence shows people who are overweight may be predisposed to suffer knee problems such as jumper’s knee with one study stating that “MRI defined patellar tendinopathy was positively associated with current or past history of obesity.”
The force of hitting a hard surface such as the timber flooring of a basketball court puts strain on your knee tendon.
Jumper’s Knee Treatment Options
If you’ve suffered a patella tendon knee injury while playing sport, you’ll likely need to apply the R.I.C.E method as a first response for jumper’s knee treatment.
- I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) can be used to reduce the swelling and pain around the injured knee.
- Pain relief. If the player has severe pain caused by jumper’s knee, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen may help to reduce discomfort.
Long Term Solutions for Jumper’s Knee
When jumper’s knee has been caused by overuse or chronic problems with the patella tendon, more long-term solutions are required for jumper’s knee treatment. Some of these include:
- Muscle development
- Bio mechanical assessment
- Footwear changes and orthotics
- Injection therapies
- Dry needling
- Extracorporeal shockwave treatment
- Arthroscopic surgery to debride and resection the patellar pole
Case Study: Jumper’s Knee Treatment
A 38-year old basketballer who has been playing basketball since he was 10 and was very passionate about the sport, sought out jumper’s knee treatment to get him back playing again without pain.
Research tells us that up to 50 per cent of athletes involved in sports that involved a lot of jumping action will eventually experience problems with the patellar tendon that will require jumpers knee treatment.
Jumper’s knee most often occurs in those aged over 30, in particular weekend sports players who may not be doing strength and conditioning exercises. “Basketball is one of the most common sports where we see jumper’s knee because there is so much jumping and landing involved, which puts stress on the patella tendon,” says sports podiatrist Karl Lockett.
As a long-term basketballer who had been playing weekly since his childhood, the patient had developed jumper’s knee because of the repetitive strain on the knee, and some weight gain in his 30s. AfterAfter a very painful episode of inflammation, he knew it was important to consult professionals for jumper’s knee treatment that would carry him not just through this season, but enable him to continue playing basketball down the track.
Initially, he tried a period of rest. His sports podiatrist also recommended wearing a brace to give full support to the knee and allow the patellar tendon to heal.
The Sydney Podiatry team also developed a program of stretching and strengthening of the quadriceps as a long-term strategy for his jumper’s knee treatment.
This muscle building regime was intended to give support to the knee region and prevent the patient from having a complete rupture of the patellar tendon which can sometimes require surgical intervention.
As part of understanding why his basketball play had led to patellar tendonitis and needed jumpers knee treatment, Karl discovered that his on-court position was relevant.
His position as a shooting guard and point guard, had him frequently doing lay ups and jump shots to score goals. That amount of jumping contributed to the chronic condition which required him to seek out jumper’s knee treatment from a professional sports podiatrist.
In his case, too much basketball created repetitive micro damage which the patellar tendon simply couldn’t handle.
His height at 6ft 5inches gave him height advantage to hit the hoop, but sports podiatrist Karl Lockett says it also created extra pressure on his body, especially in his landing action.
“The patellar tendon actually experiences greater mechanical load in the landing rather than the jumping, and when you’re taller there’s further stress load again” says Lockett.
With biomechanical assessment, the Sydney Sports Podiatry clinic was able to help the keen basketballer identify that his posture, knee rotation and weakened leg muscles were part of the problem affecting his patellar tendon, that only with comprehensive jumper’s knee treatment would he be able to return to his favourite sport.
Eventually with a multidisciplinary approach involving rest, a brace, biomechanical examination and developing more flexibility in his hamstrings and strength in his quadriceps, the 38-year old was able to come off the bench and join his team back on the court for their weekly grudge match against a fellow finance firm.
If you suffer with jumpers knee and need treatment you should seek the opinion of a sports Podiatrist. The information contained in this case study should not be taken as general advice.
Sydney Podiatrist – 93883323