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What is Patellar Tendonitis (jumper’s knee) and what can I do about it?

(Please note that none of the information here should constitute medical advice, and I am only explaining my personal experience. Please see my website disclaimer for more information on this)

Patellar tendonitis is truly the bane of athletes. Also known as Jumper’s Knee, it is pain and inflammation in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the top of your shin.

You can feel your own patellar tendon right now- just push your thumb into the soft spot below your kneecap and above the bumpy top of your shin.

Pain- the tendonitis- begins primarily through overuse, as tiny tears occur in the tendon and then are unable to heal themselves properly through rest before they are used again.

This causes the pain and inflammation that only gets worse and worse over time- at the beginning it will only hurt at the end of tough workouts, but eventually, if untreated and not dealt with, can result in everyday pain. This means pain when going up and down stairs, straightening your leg, and even when walking.

While it is technically called “jumpers' knee” and jumping sport athletes are often affected (volleyball, basketball), all athletes can suffer from patellar tendonitis.

Personally, I was primarily a baseball and soccer player, and also a long-distance runner. So, while my personal journey with jumper’s knee was not from jumping too much- the massive amount of strain I put on my knees from constantly playing these sports caused horrendous patellar tendonitis in my right knee.

It’s really awful- while it never completely kept me sidelined, it hurt extremely badly. Even though this was years ago and its mostly calmed down, it still flares up from time to time.

If it gets bad enough, the tendon can even rupture- which will have you sidelined for months and months and needs surgery.

While I am not a medical professional, I still really wanted to talk about some things that I used and did to help with my own patellar tendonitis. As this can be a horribly debilitating knee injury that is also often chronic, it’s important to have a strong game plan to combat it.

First line of defense- stretch, stretch, stretch (and roll!)

Really, the first line of defense should be REST, but if you aren’t going to do that, (I never stopped playing sports/exercising completely) here are some other things you can do.

A huge cause of patellar tendon inflammation and pain is tight quadriceps and calf muscles- they might even be tight, and you won’t even know it!

So stretch, stretch, and then stretch some more. And then foam roll! Make sure you hit your quads, IT bands (sides of the quad), calf muscle, and Achilles tendon. Everything is connected, and really making sure your leg muscles are loose and in good health is incredibly important.

I really can’t stress this enough- what I did is dedicate a good 15-20 minutes TWICE a day (morning and evening) and really made sure I went to town on the stretching and rolling.

Second line of defense are good braces and supports.

I won’t go too in depth and different patella support straps here, as I have a ton of articles on that on my blog already.

If you have minor jumpers' knee, I would recommend checking out my McDavid patella support strap review here.

If your patellar tendonitis had deteriorated enough that it would be considered severe or very painful (it hurts all the time, even when climbing stairs or walking and not only when you are playing sports) I’d recommend looking at the Zamst JK-2 knee brace review here, which is great for more serious injuries.

Personally, I have also had great luck pairing my knee braces (especially the Zamst) with Bracelayer knee support pants. You can check the review on these here, but essentially, they provide a generalized knee support while also keeping braces up.

Another thing that is often discussed is how mechanical issues cause knee problems- this is certainly the case for me. As a former long-distance runner and soccer player, my problems were exacerbated by my extremely flat feet. This caused pronation in my feet when running (ankle rolling inwards on each step) which caused a lot of my knee issues.

For help in this department, I used VKTRY insoles which provided me with tremendous support and have helped the pain in my lower legs, while also providing superior cushioning- another important factor in reducing pain from jumper’s knee.

My third line of defense was doing different types of cardio.

I did this to strengthen the muscle around my knee while simultaneously getting me off my feet and reducing high impact activities like running.

I took up swimming which certainly helped a lot- swimming is about as low impact as you can get and is a tremendous full body workout. However, for me, cycling was truly my saving grace for my knees. I say this with caution, as some people have written about how cycling can actually aggravate patellar tendonitis.

While I can’t speak for them, it was the complete opposite for me. While recovering from patellar tendonitis, I knew I needed something lower impact than running or playing soccer.

So, I took up cycling and biked two hours, 5-6 days a week for about 4 months.

At the end of it, not only was I in the best shape of my life, but my patellar tendonitis had all but disappeared. Don’t get me wrong, it still twinges. But nothing like before.

I put my knee health resurgence through cycling down to a few factors- for one, cycling strengthened my leg muscles and muscles around my knee like crazy, which is a super important aspect of patellar tendonitis treatment. Strengthening the muscles around the knee is a key part of supporting the patella tendon, and if you bike for a few days after not having done it, you’ll understand how much of a workout these muscles actually get.

Furthermore, all the extra cardio actually helped me lose about 10-12 pounds. The statistics show that every pound lost takes 4 pounds off your knees- so if I lost 12 pounds, this took almost 50 pounds of pressure off my knees!

This is an absolutely crazy stat, but it’s true! And I really felt it when I went back to full impact exercise.

The main warning I have seen given to people who have aggravated their patellar tendonitis through cycling is related to seat height. If your seat is too low, your legs are “bunched up” and this puts a lot of stress on your knees and hips, causing pain- so make sure you don’t do this!

Make sure your seat is high enough that your leg is almost straight or has a slight bend when you peddle downward. This is what you want!

Patellar tendonitis is a really tough condition. It can be really discouraging, confusing, and painful. But if you take the right steps and wear the correct braces, you can really do a lot to help yourself.

Of course, no advice here should take the place of that of a medical professional or physiotherapist. Physiotherapy can be awesome for exercise techniques and additional treatment.

Good luck and stay healthy!


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