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What is Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. When healthy, the patellar tendon keeps your kneecap in place and helps bend and straighten your leg. The injury, also known as jumper’s knee, occurs when there is recurring injuries or overuse of the patellar tendon—which can hurt when the knee is loaded or forcefully extended. The condition most commonly affects athletes playing sports that require frequent jumping on hard surfaces, such as basketball and volleyball.

Risk factors and causes of patellar tendonitis 

Jumper's knee is usually a sports-related injury that results from the repeated force of hitting the ground. Constantly contracting the leg muscle strains your tendon and, over time, can cause your tendon to weaken and become inflamed. 

Other patellar tendonitis risk factors beyond athletics include: 

  • Muscle tightness in your thigh muscles (quadriceps), hamstrings, and calf muscles can increase the strain on your patellar tendon.
  • Strength imbalance between the muscles in your legs can cause the stronger ones to pull too hard and tear the patellar tendon.
  • Chronic illnesses such as kidney failure, arthritis, and diabetes can disrupt blood flow to the knee and weaken the tendon, making it susceptible to tearing.
  • Being overweight adds strain to the muscles and tendons in your legs. 
  • In rare cases, the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics can lead to patellar tendinitis and subsequent patellar tendon rupture

Patellar tendonitis symptoms 

The first and most common symptom of patellar tendonitis is pain, typically below your kneecap. It often starts as aching in your knee following physical exertion such as playing sports or working out and then can progress to sharp, activity related, stabbing pain. While your symptoms may not always be the same, they can progress to the point where they interfere with everyday movements such as standing up or using stairs.

Other common symptoms of patellar tendonitis include:

  • Pain and tenderness in your knee or behind your kneecap
  • Swelling 
  • Difficulty jumping, running, or walking
  • Pain when bending or straightening your leg

The symptoms of jumper's knee may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is patellar tendonitis diagnosed?

The symptoms of patellar tendonitis can appear like other knee injuries and conditions. To accurately diagnose patellar tendonitis, your health care provider may use the following examinations: 

  • Physical examination and palpation
  • Ultrasound images to reveal tears in your patellar tendon
  • X-rays to rule out bone fractures that can cause knee pain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to reveal the structure of the knee and see a more complete picture of the patellar tendon 

How is patellar tendonitis treated?

Treating patellar tendonitis depends on several factors, including your injury's severity, knee condition, age, and overall health. These options include:

In most cases, treating patellar tendonitis doesn’t require surgical procedures. Common nonsurgical treatment options include: 

  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles around the knee
  • Wearing a knee brace, cast, or splint
  • Limiting activity or avoiding high-impact activity 
  • Resting, icing, or applying heat to the injured knee to reduce swelling
  • Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Injections can be used for more severe cases
  • In the most severe cases a surgical debridement may be appropriate 

Although surgical treatment is rare for patellar tendonitis, it may be necessary to repair the damaged tissues in your knee if other treatments fail.

Overall, the best treatment for jumper's knee is to identify the reason for the overload, address this reason and refrain from the activity causing the problem until your injury has healed.

Mass General Brigham Sports Medicine specializes in various nonsurgical and surgical treatment options for patellar tendonitis. Schedule an appointment to meet with one of our Sports Medicine specialists. Same-day telehealth visits are also available in most cases. 

Preventing patellar tendonitis 

There are several steps you can follow to prevent patellar tendinitis, including:

  • Strength training. The stronger your thigh muscles are, the better they handle the physical stress that can lead to patellar tendonitis. Not all strengthening exercises are ideal to condition the patellar tendon. Particularly exercises, during which the foot is not planted on the ground or on a foot rest can increase symptoms and pain.
  • Resting, instead of playing through pain. If you experience knee pain while playing sports, stop playing, ice the area, and rest. Refrain from the activity until your knee is pain-free.
  • Improving your technique. Injury can also result from using incorrect form while playing. Consider working with a trainer to improve your technique.

Recovering from patellar tendonitis  

Patellar tendonitis recovery time depends on the severity and need for treatment. Stopping or reducing time playing sports may be necessary. Continuing to do the same activities that caused the injury may do more damage to your patellar tendon.

If you're worried about jumper's knee or have recently recovered from the condition, you can reduce your risk of injury by:

  • Stretching the proper muscles before and after exercise
  • Wearing supportive athletic shoes and a knee brace (counter force brace) when working out or playing sports
  • Icing your knee after physical activity may help reduce swelling 

If you need help recovering from and preventing future knee injuries, our team can help you develop a rehabilitation plan that will allow you to regain maximum function and mobility. Our physical therapists design regimens using strength and stretching exercises to help you return to play while minimizing your risk of injury. Request an appointment or call us at 617-726-0500 to learn more.


Jumper’s knee is another name for patellar tendonitis. This injury is caused by repeated jumping motions that strain the patellar tendon over time. Jumper’s knee is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. It's commonly seen in basketball and volleyball players who often jump on hard surfaces.

Runner’s knee and jumper’s knee are not the same injury. Runner’s knee occurs when one of the outside tendons of the knee (Iliotibial band or IT band) rubs over the outside of the femur bone when overused or irritated. 

The average recovery time for patellar tendonitis using proper treatment is about six weeks. However, a full recovery can require several months of physical therapy, depending on the injury's severity and your overall health. You may see the pain diminish within a few weeks, but the tear in your tendon requires at least six weeks. Physical therapy, stretching, and treatment are vital to reduce stiffness and pain.

Your body's ability to heal patellar tendonitis depends on your overall health and the severity of your injury. Over-the-counter medications, rest, and ice can reduce pain, swelling, and discomfort for a less severe patellar tendon tear. Refraining from the painful activity is usually the best way to ensure the tear heals appropriately. You may also use a knee brace to mitigate the use of your knee joint. 

You may need a guided physical therapy program if you're an athlete and must regularly engage in rigorous physical activity. A professional physical therapist can help you strengthen your muscles and improve the range of motion in your knee joint, helping you recover and prevent future injuries. In the most severe cases, knees never regain the same mobility following patellar tendonitis. 

While many people can continue doing regular physical activities such as walking and climbing stairs, recovery can be slow. Daily stretching and strength exercises that can improve your range of motion are essential to recovering fully. Always listen to your body and stop exercising if they become painful.

If you don't treat patellar tendonitis, any pain and soreness can worsen and affect your athletic performance.

Pain (often sharp or stabbing), tenderness, or burning sensations are all symptoms of patellar tendonitis. You may also experience swelling in your knee and pain when you try to kneel or squat down.

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