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What Is Jumper’s Knee? Houston Sports Med FAQ

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

Jumper’s knee is a common athletic injury in active adults. In fact, this injury may occur in as many as one in five jumping athletes. Because jumper’s knee sometimes presents with relatively mild symptoms, many athletes continue to train with the injury. However, this can be risky, as jumper’s knee may worsen and lead to further damage that requires surgical repair, like rupturing the patellar tendon.

What Is Jumper’s Knee?

Jumper’s knee (technically known as “patellar tendonitis”) is an overuse condition that occurs when the patellar tendon, which attaches the kneecap to the top of the shinbone, becomes inflamed. At-risk athletes include basketball players, soccer players, gymnasts, runners, and high jumpers. However, anyone who does repetitive jumping could develop this injury. This condition can also be confused with Osgood-Schlatter’s disease which is a common cause of knee pain in growing adolescents, and is also an overuse syndrome more commonly seen in adolescents who participate in athletics – especially running and jumping sports. This is an inflammation of the patellar tendon where it inserts on the bony bump on the shin bone.

What Are the Symptoms of Jumper’s Knee?

Symptoms may include:

  • Knee stiffness – especially when using the affected tendon in activities such as kneeling, jumping, squatting or climbing stairs
  • Pain just below the kneecap
  • Pain when bending the knee
  • Pain in the quadriceps (muscle group on the front of the thigh)
  • Fatigue or weakness in the calf or entire leg

In some cases, people with jumper’s knee have balance issues or experience tenderness and swelling around the lower part of the knee, though these symptoms are less common.

What Can a Sports Med Doctor Do For Jumper’s Knee?

If you see a sports med physician with symptoms of jumper’s knee, the first thing your doctor will likely do is evaluate the knee. An evaluation may include some basic range of motion and usage tests. Clinical observations, along with diagnostic imaging tests, may be used to grade the extent of the injury.

A grade between one and five may be assigned to the injury. A ‘one’ indicates pain only after exercise, while a ‘five’ indicates constant pain that prevents any kind of athletic activity.

Patients with grade one jumper’s knee may recover with basic RICE therapy, while patients with grade five jumper’s knee could require surgery. There is a wide range of therapies in between these two extremes that your Houston sports medicine doctor may be able to offer, including referral to physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, pain-relieving knee brace, injections and more.

Find a Houston Sports Medicine Doctor Near You

To learn more about jumper’s knee and your treatment options, find a sports medicine doctor near you. Call Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics at (713) 756-5546, or schedule your next appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.