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Patellar tendinitis (patellar tendinopathy, also known as jumper's knee), is a relatively common cause of pain in the inferior patellar region in athletes. It is common with frequent jumping and studies have shown it may be associated with stiff ankle movement and ankle sprains.
Jumper's knee (patellar tendinopathy, patellar tendinosis, patellar tendinitis) commonly occurs in athletes who are involved in jumping sports such as basketball and volleyball. Patients report anterior knee pain, often with an aching quality. The symptom onset is insidious. Rarely is a discrete injury described. Usually, involvement is infrapatellar at or near the infrapatellar pole, but it may also be suprapatellar.
Depending on the duration of symptoms, jumper's knee can be classified into 1 of 4 stages, as follows:
Stage 1 – Pain only after activity, without functional impairment
Stage 2 – Pain during and after activity, although the patient is still able to perform satisfactorily in his or her sport
Stage 3 – Prolonged pain during and after activity, with increasing difficulty in performing at a satisfactory level
Stage 4 – Complete tendon tear requiring surgical repair
It begins as inflammation in the patellar tendon where it attaches to the patella and may progress by tearing or degenerating the tendon. Patients present with an ache over the patella tendon. Most patients are between 10 and 16 years old. Magnetic resonance imaging can reveal edema (increased T2 signal intensity) in the proximal aspect of the patellar tendon.
It is an overuse injury from repetitive overloading of the extensor mechanism of the knee. The microtears exceed the body's healing mechanism unless the activity is stopped.
The injury occurs to athletes in many sports.
Early stages may be treated conservatively using the R.I.C.E methods.
Exercises involving eccentric muscle contractions of the quadriceps on a decline board are strongly supported by extant literature. A physical therapist may also recommend specific exercises and stretches to strengthen the muscles and tendons, eg. cycling or swimming. Use of a strap for jumper's knee and suspension inlays for shoes may also reduce the problems.
Should this fail, autologous blood injection, or platelet-rich plasma injection may be performed and is typically successful though not as successful as high volume saline injection (Crisp et al.). Uncommonly it may require surgery to remove myxoid degeneration in the tendon. This is reserved for patients with debilitating pain for 6–12 months despite conservative measures. Novel treatment modalities targeting the abnormal blood vessel growth which occurs in the condition are currently being investigated.
New research shows that knee operations in most cases have no better effects than exercise programs, and that most knee operations thus can be avoided.
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