Patella Tendonitis & Patella Tendon Tears

What are they, and how are they treated?

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You have just enjoyed a wonderful weekend outdoors. However, on your last hike, you slipped and injured your leg. You know it’s not broken, but something is not right.

Your friend tells you that they have experienced something similar and that it might be patella tendonitis, or you might have a patella tendon tear.

“What are patella tendonitis and a patella tendon tear?” you may ask. Our Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at OrthoNeuro are more than happy to explain it to you. Just contact one of our offices in Columbus, Ohio for more information.

Using various knee injury treatment options, we have helped thousands with patellar tendon injuries return to the active and healthy lifestyle they love.

For your convenience, we have provided some basic information to help answer some of your questions.

What Is a Patellar Tendon Tear?

A patellar tendon attaches your kneecap (patella) to the top of the shin bone (tibia) and works with your quadriceps muscles in the front of your thigh.

When the patella, patellar tendons, quadriceps tendon, and quadriceps muscle work together seamlessly, you can easily extend and straighten your knee.

However, a patellar tendon tear occurs when the tendon detaches from the kneecap. If any link in this chain is frayed or disrupted, it can cause discomfort or loss of mobility from the knee down.  

Patellar tears can be categorized into two severity groups: partial or complete. The differences between the two can be found below.

Patellar tendon tears are categorized into two groups of severity:


1) Partial tears occur when the tendon fibers are frayed, but the tendon is still in one piece. The soft tissues are not completely disrupted.

2) Complete tears, also known as a patellar tendon tear or rupture, occur when the tendon has been torn into two pieces and separated from your kneecap.

This is more severe and can cause you to lose the ability to straighten your leg below the knee.

How Do You Tear Your Patellar Tendon?

There are several ways to tear or injure your patellar tendon. Often it results from a sudden, direct impact to the front of a knee.

This can occur from sports injuries, falls from a significant height, landing from a jump with your knee bent and foot planted, and even a car accident if there is direct trauma.

Tendon weakness due to patellar tendonitis may also be a factor. There may be some underlying degeneration taking place in the weakened patellar tendon before the complete tear occurs.

What Is Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis occurs when the patellar tendon becomes inflamed due to overuse or repetitive strain. The tendon weakens over time, which results in small micro tears.

If left untreated by a specialist, this condition can result in a patellar tendon tear. Patellar tendonitis is often referred to as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee” for athletes participating in high-impact sports.

Patellar Tendon Tear Symptoms

There are a few patellar tendon symptoms that you want to look out for.

Your symptoms can include: 

  • Pain in your knee or just below the kneecap that tends to increase with activity
  • Swelling
  • Weakness and knee instability
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness

At the time of injury, many have reported that they felt a sudden tear or popping sensation in their knee, followed by immediate pain.

Although walking after a small patellar tendon tear is possible, you may notice significant knee buckling, difficulty walking, and severe pain.

However, full knee extension is usually not possible after a complete patellar tendon tear or rupture.

How Is Patellar Tendonitis Treated?

Your OrthoNeuro specialist may recommend conservative, nonsurgical treatment options to reduce pain and help the tendon heal.

Conservative treatment options can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Assistive bracing for additional support

How Is a Patellar Tendon Tear Treated and When Is It Necessary to Have Surgery? 

Each case is different, so treatment for patellar tendon tears is usually determined based on the severity and location of the tear.

Generally, partial tears respond well to the following treatment:


Immobilization

Assistive bracing

Physical therapy

However, if a partial tear has not responded sufficiently to the nonsurgical methods listed above, it may require surgical treatment.

When the patellar tendon is completely torn or ruptured, immediate medical attention is needed, and a patellar tendon rupture treatment to reattach the patellar tendon may be recommended.

This surgical procedure is known as a patellar tendon rupture surgery.

This surgical repair is commonly used to help injured athletes and others who live active lifestyles to have the opportunity to regain knee function and reach their athletic pursuits.

How Is a Patellar Tendon Repair Performed?

At OrthoNeuro, patellar tendon repair is performed on an outpatient basis. This enables you to return home the same day as your procedure.

Due to our advanced, minimally invasive techniques, there is very little surgical trauma. You should be able to recover and return to normal activities shortly after surgery.

During the procedure your specialist will:

  • First, make a small incision around the tear.
  • Second, make small holes in the kneecap.
  • Then, sutures will be placed into the torn tendon.
  • These sutures are then passed through the holes in the kneecap, and tension is adjusted to ensure that everything is stable and that the position of the kneecap closely matches that of your uninjured kneecap.
  • Finally, the incision is closed with small sutures.

How Long Is Recovery After a Patellar Tendon Repair?

Since every patellar tendon injury is unique, the recovery time for each person is different. Some cases are more severe and will require more time.

It’s also imperative to minimize your activity as your tendon heals. Doing so will prevent re-injuring or aggravating your existing injury.

A micro or partial tear may take up to six months to return to your pre-injury activity levels.

The time frame for severe patellar tendon ruptures will also vary, but it can take up to a full year to recover after patellar tendon surgery.

Thankfully, physical therapy can begin once the initial pain and swelling have subsided. It can be beneficial in minimizing any weakness you may experience, restoring your range of motion, and regaining full knee function.

If you are a high-level athlete, this is something you want to take into consideration.

Treat Your Patella Tendon Tears Today

If you have been experiencing any symptoms of patellar tendonitis or a patellar tendon tear, please call one of our 7 convenient locations throughout the Greater Columbus area.

We will thoroughly examine your knee and evaluate your unique goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. Make an appointment with an OrthoNeuro knee specialist today!

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Knee Specialist Today!

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of patellar tendonitis or a patellar tendon tear, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 

We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you.

Knee Specialists

If you have a severe knee injury or chronic knee pain that reduces your mobility or quality of life, contact OrthoNeuro to schedule a consultation. Our expert orthopedic surgeons are on hand to diagnose and treat your knee problem.

Michael B. Cannone, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Mark E. Gittins, DO, FAOAO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Ryan M. Palmer, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

B. Rodney Comisar, MD, FAAOS

Orthopedic Surgeon

J. Mark Hatheway, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon

Mark T. Kolich, D.O.

Orthopedic Surgeon

Keith A. LaDu, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Jeremy R. Mathis, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Meniscus repair six months ago. Surgery went smoothly. Dr. set realistic expectations that have been met. Great team to work with

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