It is a pain that appears just below the knee, a sharp or constant pain that you do not know if it happens or not when you are in training but the pain is more: you begin to feel the knee stiff and you start to loose your leg, with a feeling that you were going to fall at every step.
If you have also felt this on occasion, you are likely to suffer from patellar tendinitis, better known as the “jumper’s knee”. We tell you everything you need to know about this pathology: why it occurs, what are its symptoms and how is its treatment.
What is patellar tendonitis?
To understand what it is and why patellar tendinitis occurs, we must first know how the knee works. Different muscles, tendons and bones are involved in the knee joint that facilitate movement of the knee, the most important being the quadriceps, the quadriceps tendon, the patellar tendon, the patella and the tibia.
The patellar tendon is a band of wide tissue that is inserted between the patella and the tibia, joining both bones. Together with the quadriceps tendon and the quadriceps, it facilitates the movement of knee flexion and extension: a repetitive movement that we perform when doing some activities (with more or less impact) such as running, walking or jumping.
Patellar tendinitis occurs when there is an inflammation of the quadriceps tendon (the suffix -itis referred to the pathologies means that there is inflammation), which produces pain in that area when certain movements occur.
Why is patellar tendinitis produced?
The patella is a small triangular bone located in the front area of the knee that acts as a lever when performing the flexion and extension of this joint: it is a fundamental bone because it increases the efficiency of the quadriceps, sliding upwards.
When due to an overload of work many micro impacts on the knee (such as a long distance in which we travel many kilometers and obviously take many steps: every time we support the foot on the ground in the landing phase of the tread an impact occurs against the pavement that reaches the joints) the tendon can become inflamed, thus producing patellar tendonitis.
A bad cushioning of the footwear that we use for running, an over training or a bad career technique may favor this pathology. The positive part is that all these are factors that we can control to avoid as far as possible the appearance of the injury.
The symptoms of patellar tendonitis
How does it feel when we suffer from patellar tendonitis? Basically what we explained at the beginning of the article. The most common symptoms are the following:
- Pain in the front area of the knee, specifically below the kneecap
• Sensation of weakness in the knees, as the tendon swells, the joint loses some of its support
• Sensation of stiffness in the joint (as I told you that happened to me in my first marathon around kilometer 36, evidently due to an overload after so many kilometers traveled)
• Pain when flexing the knee
• Pain in the quadriceps or calf, or both
The treatment of patellar tendonitis
The patellar tendonitis, like any other pathology, must be diagnosed by the medical staff. If we notice pain in the knee while running we can identify with this pathology, the recommendation will always be to see our physiotherapist, who is going to be able to diagnose and treat depending on how our injury is and the degree to which it is located.
In the case of patellar tendonitis, there are five different degrees in which the lesion can be found and numbered from one to five, the most common being a mild to moderate pathology that can be treated in consultation. In the case of a serious pathology, it may even require treatment with surgery (the part of the most affected tendon is removed or cuts are made in the sides to reduce the tension of the central area of the tendon).
In the case that patellar tendonitis is mild or moderate, our physiotherapist can recommend, always in a personalized way and depending on our circumstances, rest, application of ice to reduce pain and swelling of the area, knee lift to reduce inflammation, or taking oral anti-inflammatories.
A measure that is usually effective in reducing pain and pressure in the patella is the use of an infra patellar band or Chopat band: it is a functional bandage with a band or tape that is placed below the kneecap and that allows us to reduce the tension in the muscle insertion and helps reduce pain when running. Surely you have seen a runner wearing this characteristic band just below the knee.
In the case of suffering from patellar tendonitis, and also as a means of prevention, it is important that we warm properly before performing a workout and that we devote the necessary time in our training to the work of muscle strengthening, including isometric exercises and work of strength with our body weight or with external loads according to our needs. Regulating workload and avoiding over training will also help us both prevent and treat this injury.