Anyone that jumps frequently is in danger or developing jumper’s knee. I can say from personal experience, it’s a very painful injury. This article explains what it is, common symptoms, how to avoid it, and how to treat jumper’s knee.
What is Jumper’s Knee?
Patellar tendonitis, or commonly called jumper’s knee, is a knee injury injury caused by overuse of the patellar tendon. This is the tendon that attaches the kneecap (pattela) to the shin bone. When this tendon is overused it swells up and causes pain in the knee. If it is not treated and allowed to heal the tendon can tear requiring surgery.
Jumper’s knee is common in athletes that do a lot of high impact jumping and running such as basketball and soccer. This tendon is used when you jump and when you land. Even if you’re currently not doing a lot of jumping, it’s still possible to get patellar tendonitis. Long distance runners often get a similar injury, patellofemoral, also called runner’s knee.
Four stages of Jumper’s Knee
Stage 1 – Pain occurs only after the high intensity activity.
Stage 2 – Pain occurs when starting the activity, decreases or goes away completely when warmed up, the comes back after the activity.
Stage 3 – Pain occurs during and after the activity.
Stage 4 – Patellar tendon has ruptured causing a chronic pain and weakness. Surgery may be required.
The Patellar Tendon connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia)
Symptoms of Jumper’s Knee
If you have jumper’s knee you may not notice any swelling in your knee, but you will notice the pain. You likely have jumper’s knee if you have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain below your kneecap after training.
- Pain when bending or straightening your knee.
- Swelling in the front of your leg, just below your kneecap.
Causes of Jumper’s Knee
If you just started or are currently using a vertical jump program that incorporates plyometric training, you may be at risk of developing jumper’s knee. The reason plyometrics so are effective, is also the reason they can be dangerous. Make sure to know what you’re doing and ease into a program that includes plyometrics.
I do not recommend doing any high intensity plyometrics without the proper strength. Until you can squat at least 1.5x your bodyweight, stick to low intensity or low frequency plyometric training such as jump roping. If you’re not there yet, you don’t need to be doing plyometrics anyway. The more you can squat, the higher you will jump.
If you weigh a lot, you may also be at risk. I’m not only talking about people that are overweight. If someone usually goes to the gym only to bench press and arm curl decideds they wanted to learn how to dunk, they should take the time to develop sufficient lower body strength before doing a lot of high intensity jumping.
Other causes that are quicker to fix include not stretching before the high impact activity, training or playing on concrete or other hard surfaces, and not wearing the proper shoes.
Jumper’s Knee is common among basketball players, such as high flyer Nate Robinson
How to Prevent Jumper’s Knee
Stretch and Warm up Properly – As always, stretching is very important. Warming up your quads, hamstrings, and calves will get your muscles ready to take the load off your tendon.
Get Stronger Legs - Stronger quads, hamstrings and calves will help stabilize your knee. The best way to get stronger quads is to squat. Lunges and unilateral training is helpful for stabilization. Not only will stronger quads help prevent injury, they will also help you jump higher.
Ease into your Training Program – If you are starting a new training program, especially if it requires a lot of high impact jumping or running, take it slow.
Wear Proper Footwear – To minimize the impact on your feet, knees and other joints, make sure you’re wearing good shoes when you’re jumping. Shoes without cushion are great for squats, but not so great for jumping.
Jump on Soft Surfaces- If you can help it, do your training on rubber mats, carpet, grass, or some other surface that will give a little. Plyometrics on concrete is a recipe for disaster.
Rest and Recovery – This is the most important way to prevent jumper’s knee. If you get jumper’s knee from overuse, don’t train more than your body can handle! Sleep and rest will help you heal, recover, and get your body ready to jump higher.
Rest and recovery are the best ways to prevent and treat jumper’s knee.
Jumper’s Knee Treatment
What should you do if you have jumper’s knee? Figure out what’s causing it and stop doing that activity.
Your tendon is not going to get better unless you take a break from whatever is causing the swelling. If you don’t stop, you will likely end up with a more severe injury. I suggest refraining from any running, jumping, squatting, kneeling or anything else that agitates it and causes pain. If you’re in the middle of a season, you still need to take as much time as you can off. When the pain starts to go away, take your time and ease back into your training program.
To speed up the recovery, make sure to RICE. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
If you absolutely can not stop your activity or training until the pain goes away completely, there are a few options. Knee wraps or sleeves can be worn to help support the tendon. Asprin or a non-inflammatory creme can be used as well to help with pain.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medial advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you have regarding your medical condition.