Updated: Jul 27, 2022
If you are an athlete, then you know that injuries are just a part of the game. However, some injuries can be more serious than others, and patellar tendon injuries are definitely one of those. As an athlete, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a patellar tendon injury so that you can seek medical attention if necessary. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of patellar tendon injuries as well as how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
The patellar tendon is a thick band of tissue that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). This tendon helps to extend the leg when you are walking, running, or jumping. Patellar tendon injuries can occur when this tendon is overused or overloaded, which is often the case during sports.
There are three main types of patellar tendon injuries: tendonitis, bursitis, and tendon rupture. Tendonitis is the most common type of injury and is characterized by inflammation and pain in the tendon. Bursitis is another common type of injury, and it occurs when the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that surround the tendon become inflamed. Tendon rupture is a more serious injury, and it occurs when the tendon completely tears away from the bone.
Tendinitis or tendinosis, depending on the length of time this has occurred, can come in many different varieties, intensities, and severities. Tendinitis is caused when the patellar tendon is loaded over its capacity repetitively. The tendon can become irritated and over time this can cause changes to the structure of the tendon. This type of condition is sometimes called Runner's knee or Jumper's knee. This is because running and jumping are the 2 most common causes of this type of injury.
Bursitis of the knee patella is also a common type of injury, though much less common compared to tendinitis. There are really two types of bursitis of the knee. The first is acute prepatellar bursitis. This usually occurs due to an impact injury or other type of trauma to the knee. Chronic bursitis occurs because of repeated overuse. This is more commonly caused by excessive kneeling.
Tendon rupture is a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention. This type of injury occurs when the tendon completely tears away from the bone. A tendon rupture can be partial or complete. This usually will require surgery to repair the tendon and reattach it to the bone. Tendon ruptures happen during high-force moments such as landing from a jump, cutting, planting, or from being forcefully put into a position that overstretches the tendon.
There are several ways that you can prevent patellar tendon injuries from happening. First, it is important to warm up before participating in any physical activity. This will help to increase blood flow to the tendon and prepare it for activity. Second, it is important to work on the mobility of the knee and the muscles surrounding the knee
The greatest factor in preventing patellar tendonitis and tendon tears is to have adequate quad muscle strength. Some of our favorite exercises to improve quad strength include:
Resisted backward walking: Pull a sled or heavy object while walking backward. If you don't have something to pull you can find a partner and a rope and take turns pulling each other. Another simple way to get a similar workout is to walk up a hill backward. It's better to do this on an actual hill but you could also do this on a treadmill with the ramp up.
Single-leg squats: We prefer the single-leg version because it will show the difference in strength from side to side. Start by doing single leg sit to stands and progressively lower the surface as you get stronger.
Reverse nordic: The best way to show this exercise is via video. I'll drop that below.
Here is a great video from barbell physio on the reverse nordic
Backward walking lunge: This is a great exercise because it really helps to develop power of the quad. If you can, try not to take a balance step between lunges. Ryan Ford demonstrates this great on his channel.
Lastly we have bursitis. If you are going to be kneeling often you should use some sort of knee pad in order to avoid pre-patellar bursitis. It is as simple as that.
That’s a lot of information on one little tendon! But, it is important to understand all the possible injuries that can occur so you can take steps to prevent them. If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort in your knee, please book a physical therapy visit today. Our team will work with you to develop a treatment plan specifically tailored to your needs and help get you back to doing the things you love injury-free!