Jumper’s knee: Causes and Treatment Options

Published: April 19, 2021

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Patellar tendinitis or “Jumper’s knee” is a common source of pain most often seen in younger athletes who participate in sports with frequent jumping – think volleyball and basketball.  It’s caused by overuse of the knee joint, which results in injury to the tendon that attaches the shinbone to the patella (kneecap). The tendon develops tiny tears and becomes inflamed, leading to pain and weakness.(1)

An estimated 14% of recreational volleyball players have Jumper’s knee. For elite volleyball players, the incidence rises to between 50 to 60%.(2) Contributing factors may include:

  • tight leg muscles
  • uneven leg muscle strength
  • misaligned feet, ankles, and legs
  • shoes without enough padding
  • hard playing surfaces
  • chronic diseases that weaken the tendon(2)

Providers generally assess patients by initially gathering a complete history and determining at what point the patient feels pain during a tendon-loading task.(3) “Pain behavior also has a classic presentation: the tendon may be sore to start activity, respond variably to warm-up (from completely relieving symptoms to not at all) and will then be worse the next day, which can persist for several days.”(3) Imaging tests may include X-rays, ultrasound, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).(1)

Short-term relief for Jumper’s knee may be achieved with pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium.(1) Physical therapy techniques include:

  • Stretching exercises. Regular, steady stretching exercises can reduce muscle spasm and help lengthen the muscle-tendon unit.
  • Strengthening exercises. Weak thigh muscles contribute to the strain on the patellar tendon. Exercises that involve lowering the leg very slowly after extending it can be particularly helpful, as can exercises that strengthen all of the leg muscles in combination, such as a leg press.
  • Patellar tendon strap. A strap that applies pressure to the patellar tendon can help to distribute force away from the tendon and direct it through the strap instead. This may help relieve pain.
  • Iontophoresis. This therapy involves spreading a corticosteroid medicine on your skin and then using a device that delivers a low electrical charge to push the medication through the skin.(1)

“Dexamethasone is a common anti-inflammatory medication used during iontophoresis treatments in many physical therapy clinics.”(4) Dexamethasone is found to be helpful in decreasing inflammation that occurs in conditions including tendonitis. Inflammation results in pain, swelling and decreased mobility. Dexamethasone helps to decrease the inflammatory process.(4)

For providers and sports medicine facilities, Edge Pharma offers Dexamethasone 0.40% Iontophoresis Solution.

 


(1) Mayo Clinic, Patellar Tendonitis, https://www.mayoclinic.org
(2) Hecht, M. reviewed by Morrison, W. M.D., healthline, What is Patellar Tendonitis, https://www.healthline.com
(3) Rudavsky, A., Cook, J., Journal of Physiotherapy, Physiotherapy and the Management of Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee) https://www.sciencedirect.com
(4) Sears, B. P.T., reviewed by Periera, E. D.P.T., verywell health, Iontophoresis Medications Used in Physical Therapy, https://www.verywellhealth.com