Patellar tendonitis is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. The muscles at the front of your thigh work through the patella tendon to extend your knee so you can kick, run and jump. Patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is most common in athletes whose sports involve frequent jumping — such as basketball and volleyball.
If you notice pain just below your kneecap after a bout of exercise, especially one that included a significant amount of jumping, ice it and give it a little rest until the pain begins to decrease. But, just because your knee starts to feel better does not meant you should immediately resume the activities which caused the pain. A little bit of rehab can go a long way.
Your rehab program should consist of both flexibility and strength work. Start by stretching your hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. If you notice that the side that is painful is significantly tighter than the non-painful side, then there is a good chance that creating balance in your tight muscles will help the problem. After stretching, it’s important to perform some strength exercises. Exercises such as isometric quadriceps contractions, single-leg extensions, eccentric squats, lunges or step backs will help strengthen your weak knee.
One of the best ways to rehab patellar tendonitis is with eccentric squats. These help strengthen the hamstring, gluteal and quadriceps muscles.
- Stand on a 25-degree slant board with your feet parallel, hip-width apart and your heels on the elevated side. You can improvise a slant board by placing a piece of wood on a book
- Keep your lower back straight. Squat slowly until your thighs are parallel to the ground by sitting back instead of dipping down. Never bounce or move with momentum.
- Take three seconds for the way down, and take two or three seconds for getting up again.
- Do three sets of up to 15 repetitions.
If the exercises are effective, you should feel less pain and be more able to function in a short amount of time.
By Dan Baram, PTA, CSCS