The term patella tendinopathy encompasses the terms patella tendinitis, patella tendinosis and is also known as jumpers knee.
Patella tendinopathy is a condition which effects the patella ligament, or the patella tendon as some people name it. It is technically a ligament as it attaches bone to bone, a tendon attaches muscle to bone. But we will call it the patella tendon for this description as it functions as a tendon.
The quadriceps are a group of 4 large muscles at the front of the thigh, these muscles all have a singular attachment point into the kneecap and from the knee cap to the shin. The patella tendon has to be very strong as it transmits all of the force from the quadriceps into the shin to extend or stabilise the knee. As with all tendinopathies, patella tendionpathy is a case of overuse where the tendon is unable to recover from the repetitive stresses on it and undergoes a gradual process of degeneration. This weakens the patella tendon and can be rather painful.
Eccentric movements are thought to be the main cause of this tendinopathy. An eccentric movement is a movement where a muscle works to control as it lengthens. This type of contraction causes significantly more damage to the tendons and muscles. Sports with these types of contractions have been well documented as causing this disorder. As well as sports this condition is also associated with aging, as when we age our bodies ability to regenerate diminishes.
Aggravating sports include:
- Basketball or netball.
- High jump, Long jump or triple jump.
- Running downhill.
Contributing factors to patella tendinopathy:
- Change in training method or a sudden increase of intensity.
- Poor biomechanics.
- Joint stiffness.
- Muscle weakness.
- Poor core stability.
- Inappropriate footwear.
Signs and symptoms of patella tendinopathy:
- Pain just below the kneecap.
- Aching and stiffness in the morning or after exercise.
- Swelling of the affected tendon.
Pain is aggravated by:
- Climbing stairs.
This syndrome may start as a niggle and will recover with a short period of rest. If you ignore the symptoms of patella tendinopathy you will risk the injury becoming chronic. Once chronic it becomes notoriously hard to fix and the recovery period will be substantially longer. Some people even go as far as having surgery of the effected knee.
Treatments for patella tendonitis include:
- Settling down any inflammation.
- Specific massage techniques to help settle the knee down and other techniques to stimulate the recovery of the tendon and laying down new fibres.
- Stretching of tight muscles.
- Improving technique or biomechanics.
- Specific strengthening techniques such as eccentrics. These must be used with caution as they are designed to breakdown the tendon to help stimulate recovery. To much and the tendon will degenerate more, not enough and there will be no stimulus for recovery. As explained earlier many of these conditions were caused by eccentric exercises.