Don’t Let Knee Pain Keep You Out of the Game

Jumper’s Knee & Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Jumper’s Knee, or patellar tendinitis, is an injury that affects the tendon connecting the kneecap to the shinbone. It is most common in athletes whose sports involve frequent jumping, like basketball, soccer, and volleyball, but anyone can suffer from jumper’s knee.

This common overuse injury occurs when placing repeated stress on the patellar tendon. The stress results in tiny tears in the tendon, which the body attempts to repair. As tears in the tendon become more numerous, the body can’t keep up, causing inflammation in the tendon to worsen. Factors that may contribute to the development of jumper’s knee include intensity and frequency of physical activity, excess weight, tight leg muscles,misaligned leg bones, raised kneecap, and muscular imbalance. 

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

If you experience knee pain, try self-care measures first, such as icing the affected area and temporarily reducing or avoiding activities that trigger symptoms. Call your doctor if pain continues or worsens, interferes with your ability to perform routine daily activities, or is associated with swelling or redness around the joint. If there’s no improvement during or after physical activity see a doctor.

Following an initial exam, you may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist who may be able to determine if you have jumper’s knee based on your symptoms. If the diagnosis isn’t clear, tests may be performed to rule out other conditions, including, X-rays, ultrasound, or an MRI. 

Non-surgical treatment aims to reduce the strain on the tendon and gradually build up its strength. These treatments include rest, physical therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, use of a patellar tendon strap, medication, corticosteroid injection, PPR injection, or massage. Expect at least several weeks or months of conservative therapy before fully resuming physical activity, including jumping. The time for healing a re-injured jumper’s knee may be even longer. 

You and your doctor may consider surgery in select cases if non-surgical treatment isn’t helping after 12 months. The type of surgery depends on the specific injury, as well as the surgeon’s preferred method, and may include repairing tears in the tendon, or removing any badly damaged parts of the tendon. Most patients who have had surgery are able to resume athletic training within about six months. In some cases, however, recovery may take up to 18 months. 

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

  • Don’t play through pain. If your sport or activity is causing knee pain, rest, apply ice and try a different type of exercise until the 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

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a painful swelling of the anterior tibial tubercle, the bump on the upper part of the shinbone, just below the knee.

When the quadriceps muscle is used alot in sports activities during a child’s growth spurt, this area becomes irritated or swollen, and causes pain. Most common in adolescents who participate in basketball, volleyball, soccer, or gymnastics, it can be caused by small injuries due to repeated overuse before the knee area is finished growing. 

Painful swelling over a bump on the shin-bone may occur on one or both legs. There maybe leg or knee pain, which worsens with running, jumping, and climbing stairs. The area is tender to pressure, and can have swelling ranging from mild to very severe. 

Your doctor can tell if you have Osgood-Schlatter disease by performing a physical exam. A bone x-ray may be normal, or it may show swelling or damage to the tibia. X-rays are only used if the doctor wants to rule out other causes of the pain.

Osgood-Schlatter disease almost always goes away on its own once the child stops growing. Suggested treatments include: rest and decreasing activity when your child has symptoms; icing the painful area two to four times a day, and after activities; and Ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or acetaminophen(Tylenol).

Adolescents should be allowed to play sports if the activity doesn’t cause too much discomfort, however, symptoms will improve faster if activity is kept to a minimum. Sometimes a child will need to take a break from most or all sports for two or more months. 

In the rare case where symptoms don’t go away, a cast or brace may be used to support the leg until it heals. This typically takes six to eight weeks. Crutches may be used for walking to keep weight off the painful leg. Surgery is rarely necessary. 

Regular stretching, both before and after exercise and athletics, can help prevent injury; however, the small injuries that may cause this disorder are usually unnoticed

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