A Guide to Jumper’s Knee
By Marissa Garver, ATC
There are some conditions and injuries that correlate to certain sports, such as ACL tears in soccer or football players and skin infections in wrestlers. An injury common in basketball is patellar tendonitis, commonly called jumpers knee.
Patellar tendonitis is the inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects the patella, or kneecap, to the tibial tuberosity (the bony projection below your kneecap).
When does Jumpers Knee occur?
Jumper’s knee or Patellar tendonitis occurs when the patellar tendon becomes inflamed causing pain and tenderness from repetitive eccentric knee extension activities. Two examples of eccentric knee extensions are jumping and running. However, excessive jumping is thought to be the main cause of jumper’s knee.
Signs and symptoms of Jumpers Knee
The onset of patellar tendonitis generally begins with soreness and pain at the inferior pole, or bottom of the patella, after an intense workout, sport practice, or gaming event. Tenderness, pain, and slight swelling can occur at the tibial tuberosity (bony projection to which the patellar tendon attaches). Pain increases as the condition progresses, occurring before, during, and after activity. Pain can also be increased when walking up or down stairs. If the condition continues without treatment, calcifications can appear in the tendon. There are three grades to label the levels of pain in relation to patellar tendonitis:
- Grade 1: pain after sport activity
- Grade 2: pain during and after activity
- Grade 3: pain during activity and prolonged pain after the activity. The condition may progress to constant pain and result in a complete rupture.
Treatment and managementof Jumpers Knee
Initial treatment of patellar tendonitis involves reducing pain and inflammation in the knee. Treatments for jumper’s knee can include, but are not limited to ice, electrical stimulation, phonophoresis (ultrasound), iontophoresis (uses a galvanic current), or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Often, treatment includes ice and NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, because they are convenient and are known to work.
To avoid injury, stretching and strengthening exercises should be performed prior to any activity. Stretching of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves should be performed on a daily basis. Strengthening exercises are used to prepare the body for regular activity. These exercises can include straight-leg raises in all directions, one-quarter squats, and progressive jumping. As the flexibility and strength returns close to normal, plyometric exercises can be added for more stability. Some athletes find that a patellar tendonitis brace, similar to counterforce braces used by tennis players helps to decrease pain and swelling. This brace fits just below the patella placing pressure on the tendon. Precaution prevents reinjuring a tendon or preventing an injury. Precautionary measures include stretching and regular strengthening exercises.
Athletes may return to play as soon as they can perform sport-specific exercises without pain. If available, the athlete should see their athletic trainer for evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Marissa Garver, ATC
Marissa Garver, M.Ed., ATC is a graduate of the Hughston Athletic Training Fellowship and completed her Masters of Education in Health and Physical Education, with teacher certification from Columbus State University in May of 2007 . While a member of the Fellowship, Marissa served as the Head Athletic Trainer at Brookstone School, Columbus, Georgia.