As its name might suggest, patellar tendinopathy, or jumper's knee, is one of the more common sports injuries that can affect those that play sports like volleyball or basketball. Jumper's knee results from trauma to the patellar tendon which connects the knee cap (or patella) to the front of the shin. When the tendon is continuously jarred from frequent jumping or even hard running that involves numerous direction changes, it begins to fray.
That is when the pain begins.
As the tendon frays, it becomes inflamed. The pain is then often felt in the front of the knee, either on the lower part of the knee cap or on the boney bump at the top of the shin. While in rare cases, the pain comes suddenly from acute trauma to the area, pain will mostly come on in a series of stages.
The stages are:
First you feel knee pain following an intense training session or workout, but it fades with light rest.
As time goes on, the pain will come on during a workout and will be so intense that it forces you to stop.
Finally, you will feel the knee pain from jumper's knee outside of exercise during normal activities like climbing stairs or standing.
Action should be taken after the first signs of pain. If jumper's knee is ignored, it may lead to permanent damage and more drastic treatment like surgery may be required. The best treatment is actually one of the simplest. Like many injury, the key is RICE - Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.
As well as taking the RICE protocols to heart, in particular resting and pausing athletic activity for the moment, there are other options to help the patellar tendon heal faster.
Exercise Training. Depending on the severity of the injury to the tendon, a physician or physical therapist may recommend exercise training to strengthen the patellar tendon and reduce the symptoms of jumper's knee. This usually involves the athlete taking part in a carefully choreographed series of knee-strengthening exercises. While these exercises can be found online, they should never be done without the advice of a physical therapist. Doing these exercises wrong could result in more damage. However, if practiced diligently, these exercises will not only help the jumper's knee heal faster, but it will make the tendon stronger and more resistant to a relapse of the injury.
Bracing. For athletes that need to continue occasionally strenuous daily activities for their everyday lives, bracing is an excellent option to prevent exacerbating the injury any further. Compression sleeves, regular knee braces, and athletic tape can all be effective in helping to support the knee while it heals. Athletes will also want to wear braces after a few days even after given the OK to return back to their sport just to make sure everything is fully healed.
Other alternatives like dry needling, injection therapies, and platelet-rich plasma therapy can be administered by a physician if the injury is serious enough. If RICE, bracing, or exercise therapy are all ineffective in reducing the pain, a doctor may recommend more serious options like surgery to remove any damage tissue that isn't healing or to realign the knee cap that can occasional cause continued pain.
Having pain is never fun, particularly if it keeps you from doing what you love. However, if you are well equipped for any common injuries for your sport of choice, injury will never keep you out of the game for long. Contact us today to learn how our braces, athletic tape, and other sports injury supplies can fit your needs and get you back out in the field faster.