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Don’t Be Sidelined by Jumper’s Knee

Jumper’s Knee, or patellar tendinitis, is an injury that affects the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. The patellar tendon plays a pivotal role in the way you use your legs, helping your muscles extend your lower leg to jump, kick a ball or pedal your bicycle. It is most common in athletes whose sports involve frequent jumping, like basketball, soccer and volleyball, but anyone can suffer from jumper’s knee.

Symptoms

Pain, the first symptom of jumper’s knee, is usually located in the section of your patellar tendon between your kneecap and the area where the tendon attaches to your shinbone. During physical activity, the pain may feel sharp, especially when running or jumping. After a workout or practice, the pain may persist as a dull ache.

When to see a doctor

If you experience knee pain, try self-care measures first, such as icing the affected area and temporarily reducing or avoiding activities that trigger your symptoms.

Call your doctor if your pain continues or worsens, interferes with your ability to perform routine daily activities, or is associated with swelling or redness around the joint.

Causes

Jumper’s knee is a common overuse injury that occurs when placing repeated stress on the patellar tendon. This stress results in tiny tears in the tendon, which your body attempts to repair. As the tears in the tendon become more numerous, your body can’t keep up, causing inflammation in your tendon to worsen.

A combination of factors may contribute to the development of jumper’s knee, including intensity and frequency of physical activity, excess weight, tight leg muscles, misaligned leg bones, raised kneecap or muscular imbalance.

Complications

If you try to ignore the warning signs your body is sending you and work through your pain, you could cause further tendon damage and other complications, such as weak leg muscles, torn tendons and chronic knee pain.

If you have knee pain during or after physical activity that doesn’t improve with ice or rest, make an appointment with your doctor. After an initial exam, you may be referred you to a sports medicine specialist or an orthopaedic surgeon.

Your doctor may be able to determine that you have jumper’s knee based on your symptoms. If the diagnosis isn’t as clear, tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions, including a physical exam, X-rays, ultrasound or an MRI.

Conservative treatment

The conservative approach to treating patellar tendinitis aims to reduce the strain on your tendon and then gradually build up the tendon’s strength. Your doctor may suggest several techniques to accomplish this, including rest, physical therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, use of a patellar tendon strap, medication, corticosteroid injection, PPR injection or massage.

If you’ve recently developed patellar tendinitis, you can expect at least several weeks or months of conservative therapy before you’ll be able to fully resume physical activity, including jumping. If you’ve re-injured your patellar tendon, the time for healing may be even longer.

Surgery

You and your doctor may consider surgery for your jumper’s knee in select cases if more conservative approaches aren’t helping after 12 months of treatment. The procedure you undergo often depends largely on your injury, as well as your surgeon’s preferred method. Surgery may include repairing any tears in your tendon or removing any badly damaged parts of your tendon.

Most people who have had patellar tendinitis surgery are able to resume athletic training within about six months. In some cases, however, recovery may take up to 18 months.

Prevention

Reduce your risk of developing jumper’s knee by taking the following steps:

  • ► Don’t play through pain. If your sport is causing knee pain, rest, apply ice and try a different type of exercise until your pain is gone.
  • ► Stretch and strengthen your muscles. Stretching and strengthening the quadriceps muscle will help it handle the load you put on it.
  • ► Improve your technique. Consider taking lessons or getting professional instruction.

Women at Higher Risk of ACL Injury Than Men

The ACL is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee. It can be injured when it sustains a force that exceeds the strength of the ligament. The highest risk of injury occurs in sports that require pivoting, jumping, cutting or a rapid change of direction.

Studies reveal that young female athletes are up to eight times more likely than males to tear their ACLs, and are more prone to non-contact ACL injuries. One reason why women may be more prone to non-contact ACL injuries is because they run and cut sharply in a more erect posture than men, and bend their knees less when landing from a jump. Other factors which could contribute to more frequent ACL injuries in women are a smaller ACL, wider pelvis, more elastic ligaments, slower reflex time, imbalanced greater quadriceps/ hamstring strength ratio, and changing estrogen levels.

Core strength training, conditioning & proper technique reduces risk

Whether you run, swim or cycle it is essential to have core stability to maximize performance and prevent injury. In particular, the rate of ACL injury among women can be significantly reduced by proper training and conditioning.  The core of your body is where you derive your power. It provides the foundation for all arm and leg movements. Your core must be strong, flexible, and move freely to achieve maximum performance.

The foundation of your core is much more than just your abdominal muscles. It includes muscles that lie deep within your torso, right up to your neck and your shoulders. These muscles connect to the spine, pelvis and shoulders to create a solid foundation of support. When these core muscles are strong, flexible, and move freely, then the athlete is able to generate controlled, powerful movements in his/her arms and legs.

Core strengthening should be done three times weekly, along with leg and knee strengthening. Flexibility is crucial, and stretching should be done daily. Proper technique for your particular sport will also help prevent injuries.

When you’re sidelined by injury Dr. J. Lex Kenerly, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon, and the staff at the Bone & Joint Institute of South Georgia, can help get you back in the game. The new Bone and Joint Institute of South Georgia, is a 15,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility with on-site X-Ray, MRI and ambulatory surgery center, providing comprehensive orthopaedic care in a single facility.

Dr. Kenerly has expertise in a wide variety of orthopaedic and sports medicine services, treating conditions such as ACL tears, ankle sprains, rotator cuff tears, carpal tunnel syndrome, hip bursitis, heel pain, knee cartilage tears, tennis elbow, trigger finger, bunions, hip replacements, knee replacements, fracture treatment and more. From a sprain to a severe injury requiring surgery, the Bone & Joint Institute of South Georgia is your first choice for the treatment of sports-related injuries.

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