Better Me

Who's at Risk for Jumper's Knee? (Hint: Not Just Athletes)

If you notice pain between your kneecap and shinbone, it could be jumper’s knee, or patellar tendinitis. With jumper’s knee, the tendon that attaches to the kneecap becomes inflamed and may even get small tears in it.

Stephen Ripple, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Banner Health Clinic in Glendale, AZ, said that along with pain when you’re active or at rest, symptoms can include swelling and tenderness in the lower part of your kneecap.

While jumper’s knee is common in people who participate in sports that involve a lot of jumping, like basketball and volleyball, people who run a lot can also develop jumper’s knee. (Runner’s knee, which shows up as pain on the outside part of the knee, is a different condition.)

Other factors can make it more likely you could develop jumper’s knee, such as chronic diseases that affect the blood flow to the knee, tight quadriceps or hamstrings, uneven strength in your leg muscles, sudden increases in your physical activity or even changing your running shoes.

How can I prevent jumper’s knee?

According to Dr. Ripple, you can protect your tendon from injury by:

  • Stretching your thigh muscle and your tendons
  • Increasing your exercise routine gradually
  • Avoiding jumping on hard surfaces
  • Avoiding exercise when you’re fatigued, which could put undue strain on your knee

What should I do if I think I have jumper’s knee?

First, ease up on the activity that is causing your pain. Try a lower-impact sport or reduce the time and intensity you spend engaging in your sport. If you have jumper’s knee, pushing through the pain is likely to make the injury to your tendon worse.

You can try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, to control the pain. Icing and elevating your knee can also help.

If these methods alleviate your pain, you can slowly start stretching and strengthening exercises again. Reintroduce activities slowly so you don’t reinjure your tendon.

If your pain doesn’t subside, talk to your doctor.

How can my doctor diagnose and treat jumper’s knee?

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you and evaluate where exactly your knee hurts. Based on your medical evaluation, your doctor might recommend imaging studies such as x-rays, ultrasound or MRI imaging to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment could include at-home exercises, physical therapy or a strap that puts pressure on your tendon to help alleviate the pain. Corticosteroid injections or surgery can help treat jumper’s knee as well. Dr. Ripple pointed out that it’s rare to need surgery.

It can take up to a year to fully recover from jumper’s knee.

The bottom line

If you jump a lot or engage in a lot of high-impact activities, you could be at risk of patellar tendinitis, or jumper’s knee. You can usually heal it with rest and other conservative treatments.

For a referral to an orthopedic specialist to help get you back in your game, visit bannerhealth.com.

If you’re interested in staying active and healthy, you may also like:

Orthopedics Sports Medicine

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