Tendons are like ropes which connect muscles to bone. The patellar tendon connects the kneecap (the patella) to the shinbone (the tibia). Patellar tendonitis is the condition that arises when the tendon and the tissues that surround it become irritated and painful from overuse, especially from jumping activities. This usually occurs in older teens and adults who participate in sports that have a lot of jumping, including volleyball and basketball; however patellar tendonitis can also be seen in sports such as running and soccer.
Patellar tendonitis is a common injury caused by overuse and stress on the patellar tendon. The repetitive stress causes tiny tears deep in the tendon that the body attempts to repair. Occasionally the symptoms may be caused by sudden injury to the tendon; however, this is much less common.
Patellar tendonitis usually causes pain directly over the patellar tendon, just below the kneecap. Most people have increased sharp pain during activities and pain may continue as a dull pain after activity. The tendon will often be sore with pressure as well.
This condition is diagnosed by your doctor based on your symptoms, the history of your pain and activity pattern, and by physical exam. You doctor may consider getting an X-ray an ultrasound or an MRI of your knee if the diagnosis is unclear or if he or she needs to rule-out other causes of pain.
The decision to return to sports will be determined by your doctor based on the severity of your pain and your injury. Modifications to your usual activity may be needed to help decrease the stress placed on the tendon.
Stretching the quadriceps, hamstring, and calf muscles to maintain flexibility will help prevent recurrence of the problem.