While former President Clinton was in office, he slipped down a flight of stairs and suffered a complete tear (rupture) of his quadriceps tendon that required surgery.
The quadriceps femoris is a large muscle group in the front of the thigh that works to straighten your knee and the quadriceps tendon connects this muscle group to the kneecap. Rupturing this tendon is often obvious when it happens and can be quite debilitating. Many times, people will hear or feel a “pop,” there will be immediate bruising and they will be unable to straighten their knee. Typically, there will be an indentation where the tendon had been attached and the kneecap may look like it is not in the correct spot.
People with complete tears, such as what former President Clinton had, will require surgery to reattach the tendon. It is extremely important that the surgery be done soon after the injury for the best chances to regain full motion of the knee. The surgery consists of drilling holes in the kneecap and using sutures to reattach the tendon. Immediately after surgery, patients will be put into a brace that, as the recovery progresses, will allow for more and more motion.
After surgery, physical therapy can usually be started right away. The initial focus in PT is working on regaining range of motion, especially bending the knee. This must be done very gently to avoid re-injury. At this time, strengthening the hip musculature may be done to help take some of the stress off of the knee during recovery. As the healing continues, strengthening of the quadriceps and increased load onto that muscle will be done, balance work will be prescribed and lastly multi-joint and more functional exercises incorporated to get back not only to daily tasks but the things one loves to do.
By Jenn Millen, PA, ATC