Patellar tendinitis, also called jumper’s knee, is a common cause of pain among athletes who play basketball, volleyball and event cycling. Inflammation of the tendon originates just below the knee cap and extends up towards the quadricep.
About.com spoke with Dr. Steven Gausewitz, Chief of Staff at Hoag Orthopedic Institute, and Bryan Whitehurst, a central Florida freelance Physical Therapist who specialized in knee injuries.
About.com: How does this differ from Patellofemoral Syndrome?
Whitehurst: Patellofemoral Syndrome or PFS is similar to PT in regards to signs and symptoms. However, PFS is a result of tissue under the knee cap that has torn or frayed. PFS typically is caused by malalignment of the Patella, high velocity movements, and even overuse.
About.com: What causes patellar tendonitis, specifically in cycling?
Dr. Gausewitz: Athletes experience patellar tendinitis as a result of overuse. When there is too much stress on the tendon in your knee, the tendon may begin to tear, weakening the knee.
Whitehurst: There are numerous causes to PT but the main cause is over use from the result of over training. Other causes can be the type of shoes worn if you are a runner, running or riding on uneven surfaces or fast growth if the person is a young teen.
About.com: What are the symptoms of patellar tendonitis?
Dr. Gausewitz: Pain around your kneecap is the first sign of a problem. Knee pain may begin only during physical activity, but it can quickly progress to the point of consistent pain and interfere with performance. When it worsens, the pain can interfere with day-to-day activities, and athletes should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Whitehurst: Pain is the first symptom of patellar tendinitis. The pain usually is located in the section of your patellar tendon between your kneecap (patella) and the area where the tendon attaches to your shinbone (tibia).
About.com: How is patellar tendonitis diagnosed?
Dr. Gausewitz: Doctors diagnose patellar tendinitis by applying pressure to the knee to find the source of the pain because patellar tendinitis pain is concentrated around the kneecap. Depending on the case, a doctor may recommend an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI to reveal more about the injury.
Whitehurst: PT is typically diagnosed through x-rays and often times MRI's. A lot of times diagnostic testing is not required because the injury can be tendor to touch or pain with exercise.
About.com: What steps should a cyclist take immediately after being diagnosed?
Dr. Gausewitz: Refrain from intense workout. Shorten your ride.
Whitehurst: Typically after the initial diagnosis treatment is immediate rest for a minimal of 2-4 weeks. During this time the patient would need to use the RICE principle of Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation. TENS or Muscle Stimulation devices can be used to expedite the healing process. Ibuprofen and/or Tylenol can be used for pain and swelling.
About.com: Are cyclists advised to continue riding with patellar tendonitis?
Dr. Gausewitz: Each case is different, depending on the severity of the pain and the progression of the condition - but generally speaking light exercise can help with the condition. Ensure that you include a good stretching regimen into your routine.
Whitehurst: Depending on the severity of the tendonitis, the cyclist will be advised to stop cycling. If the tendonitis is not painful upon exercise then sometimes the cyclist can continue to ride as long as there is no pain or increase of pain.
About.com: How is it treated?
Dr. Gausewitz: Patellar tendinitis is typically treated using the tried and true R.I.C.E method, which includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. In some cases, physical therapists or physicians may recommend certain exercises to help build surrounding muscles.
Whitehurst: Rest Ice heat if there is no swelling, anti-inflammatory if swelling occurs. The main treatment is REST REST REST. There are patella straps that can reduce pain during exercise by reducing friction.
About.com: How can cyclists prevent patellar tendonitis?
Dr. Gausewitz: Cyclists can prevent patellar tendinitis by strengthening their thigh muscles so they can better handle stress that may cause pain. Athletes should stop activity immediately if they notice pain in their knees as a result of physical activity, and the more cyclists perfect their technique, the less likely they are to experience problems.