The knee is the largest joint in your body. This joint stabilizes your leg and allows it to bend, straighten and turn around. The functionality of the knee is enabled and supported by particular bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Thighbone, shinbone and the kneecap are some of the bones that strengthen the knee for it to support your body weight. When it comes to muscles, the quadriceps, which are located at the front of your thigh, allows the knee to straighten, extending the leg. The knee bends with the help of hamstring muscles.
The aforementioned muscles and the bones are connected by strong tissue bands known as tendons. Particularly, the patellar and the quadriceps tendons are involved here.
In short, the ability of the knee to move, straighten and stabilize your leg while jumping and landing (respectively) is brought about by the interaction of the muscles, bones and tendons mentioned above. It is through this interaction that you gain the strength to jump.
So, how does the jumper’s knee occur? Well, let’s now look at that.
Jumper’s knee is a synonym of patellar tendonitis or patellar tendinopathy. It simply refers to a painful condition that occurs when the patellar tendon is inflamed or injured. Patellar tendonitis is most prevalent among people who engage in sports that require strenuous/high jumping, for instance, basketball, gymnastics, soccer and athletics.
The patellar tendon is a cord-like tissue connecting the kneecap (also called patella) and the shin bone (tibia), helping your knee to straighten. So, when it is damaged, the kneecap loses support and as a result, your knee becomes weak and painful. Consequently, you’ll experience much difficulty while trying to straighten the affected leg.
Now let’s see how you’ll feel when you have jumper’s knee.
Jumper’s knee symptoms
The common symptoms of the condition comprise:
- Pain and tenderness on the immediate area below the kneecap
- The pain normally begins after exercise (normally involving high-jumping) and is likely to escalate when one continues with the exercise.
- Weakness in the knee especially while performing a leg-straining exercise
- Tightness or stiffness on the area around the knee, especially upon one waking up in the morning
- A swollen and significantly painful knee
- Painful quadriceps muscle
- Pain when one is bending the knee
- Leg weakness
- Difficulty while straightening the leg, hence once is unable to walk properly
Although rarely, a person with jumper’s knee may experience balance issues and/or warmth or swelling around his or her lower knee.
Doctors evaluate jumper’s knee by using a grading system. It measures the extent of the injury on a scale from 1 to 5. Grade 1 refers to pain which is only experienced after intense activity while grade 5 refers to constant daily pain and the inability to take part in sports. The doctor will ask the patient to jump, run, kneel or squat to measure the level of pain. X-rays or MRIs may also be conducted. Depending on how severe the injury is, treatment can be as simple as icepacks and rest. More serious cases require surgery.
Treatment for Jumper’s knee
In case the above symptoms are not severe, you can use the following home remedy options to treat the condition:
- Stop engaging in exercises and activities that involves jumping and straining of the legs.
- Placing ice covered cubes on the knee. This will reduce the pain as well as the inflammation if present.
- Placing a pillow beneath the leg when seated or sleeping to elevate the knee when it becomes painful.
- Massaging the affected knee
If you don’t feel any or significant relief even after trying the above options, it is crucial that you see a doctor. The health expert will evaluate the affected knee to establish the extent of the injury or inflammation before recommending a medical or therapeutic course of action. The doctor may ask you to run, jump, and squat or kneel during the assessment or even recommend an X-ray or MRI scan. Upon establishing the seriousness of the condition, you may be required to:
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication(s) such as naproxen or ibuprofen
- Wear a knee support for 3 to 6 weeks to keep the knee straight and support the healing of the tendon.
- Take a rest from activities that involve jumping or straining of the legs
- Undergo surgery for your tendon to be reattached to the kneecap. This will be recommended if you have a complete patellar tendon tear.
- Engage in knee strengthening exercises.
- Undergo injection therapies
- Undergo Platelet-rich plasma therapy to accelerate healing. The treatment involves injecting the injury site with your own platelet-rich plasma.
Everyone wants to have fun and walk without having any difficulty, but with a jumper’s knee, that might be almost impossible. However, you shouldn’t worry much if you have the condition as you can recover from it or manage it by using the self-treatment options listed here or by visiting the doctor for advanced treatment.
Preventing Jumper’s Knee
Stretching is key to preventing jumper’s knee. Warming up the muscles of the leg before strenuous activity is important along with stretching after exercising.
How the Knee Functions
Understanding jumper’s knee requires an understanding of how the knee operates. The knee is responsible for maintaining the stability of the leg. It also helps with bending and straightening. Each bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament plays a role. They work together to provide the strength to jump and they stabilize the leg for landing.
The femur or thighbone, tibia and patella help the knee support a person’s body weight. These three bones meet at the knee and they allow it to bend smoothly. Muscles help these bones to bend and straighten as well as support the joint. The quadriceps allow for straightening and extending the knee while the hamstring allows for bending.
Tendons are cords of tissue which connect muscles and bones. They have to be quite strong. The quadriceps tendon attaches the quadriceps muscle to the patella and enables the extension of the leg. The patellar tendon connects the bottom of the kneecap and the top of the tibia. Ligaments connect bones to other bones.