Patella Tendinopathy, commonly known as ‘jumper’s knee’ is a common overuse injury in long distance runners – particularly in women. It is characterised by pain and discomfort in the patella tendon. The role of the patella tendon is to transfer the force of the quadriceps muscle (like a pulley) as your knee straightens. The greatest level of stress at the patella tendon occurs on activities such as jumping and landing activities – as the quads produce an explosive muscle contraction during jumping to straighten the knee, and on landing the quads help to absorb landing forces by controlling knee bend. Excessive loading in this way can damage the patella tendon through repetitive microtrauma, which can lead to pain and dysfunction.
Patella tendinopathy typically presents clinically as anterior knee pain, localised to the patella tendon. The onset of pain is usually gradual and commonly related to an increase in sporting activity – for example increased running distance or frequency of training. Pain is commonly aggravated by activities such as jumping, landing, running, walking down stairs or deep squatting, and usually ceases once the load is removed. A range of factors can contribute to patella tendinopathy, including muscle strength imbalance, lower kinetic chain alterations, increased physical load (e.g increase in training), or training errors.