He sees the ball… He jumps for it and spikes it over the net! He gets the point… But now he’s down on the floor clutching his knee? Unfortunately, we hear this and similar scenarios involving jumping sports such as volleyball all too often from our patients.
If you’ve ever experienced an injury to your knee then you’ll know how painful, frustrating and limiting it can be, impairing your ability to partake in the sports you love and even carry out simple daily activities. So what’s going on and what is the link between jumping sports and knee pain? Medically we refer to it as Patellar Tendinopathy, though you may know the injury as Jumper’s Knee.
So, what is Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee)?
Patellar tendinopathy describes damage to the patellar tendon, the tendon that runs across the front of the knee and attaches the patella (knee cap) and the quadriceps to the tibia (shin bone). It works to help straighten the knee and as such is crucial in our ability to walk, run, kick, jump and generally mobilise the lower limbs. While the patellar tendon can withstand high forces, it is prone to injury like any other tendon, particularly with certain jumping sports.
What causes the patellar tendon to become damaged?
Damage occurs by repeated stress on the patellar tendon, so it is primarily an overuse injury. Repetitive jumping (and landing) is a good example of an activity that places significant stress on the patellar tendon, alongside quick stop-start sports and fast direction changes. This results in initial damage with very small tears through the tendon, and without the ability to adequately repair, recover and as the tendon weakens, this turns into a potentially longstanding tendinopathy. Additional causes include poor foot biomechanics, poor technique, rapid increases in training intensity, playing on hard surfaces, and muscular imbalances such as weakness in the quadriceps or tightness in the hamstrings.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom is pain. Pain is commonly located below the knee cap but can also be in front of, to the sides of, and behind the knee cap. On initial injury there may be some swelling present, though this is not reflected in the ongoing tendinopathy. After sports, you may experience aching and stiffness at the knee.
Though patellar tendinopathy may not seem particularly serious initially and may manifest as a discomfort or a niggle, if left unmanaged it can progress to a chronic injury that is difficult to treat, can take a very long time to recover, and can see you missing an entire season of your favourite sport.
Because the longer you wait, the more your knee weakens and the more damage it incurs, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting it properly and effectively treated.
How is it treated?
To minimise the risk of your injury progressing to something significantly more serious, you need to see a health practitioner. Until you do, you can start by resting the knee and avoiding any activities that trigger and exacerbate the pain. If initial swelling is present, you can ice the knee during the first one or two days. Then come in and see us ASAP!
We will assess your level on injury and prescribe a tailored treatment plan to get you better as effectively and quickly as possible - as well as stop it from progressing to something a lot more serious! We look to identify and address the cause of the injury - like if your biomechanical analysis revealed any muscular imbalances - to reduce the risk of the injury recurring in the future.
Part of your plan may include: Muscular strengthening and stretching, the use of our world-class onsite gym facilities, our specialised bracing options, strapping, massage and more. We are proud to be one of the very few clinics in New Zealand that offer platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections to fast track your recovery, if your level of injury warrants its use. More than that, we work in a multidisciplinary and holistic team where we have multiple health disciplines in one location that we work with and refer to so you get a thorough and comprehensive level of care!
PhysioConnect + North Harbour Volleyball
As Volleyball can have a higher occurrence of patellar tendinopathy due to the repeated jumping, we are proud to look after North Harbour Volleyball and keep the players at the top of the game and recovering from injury quickly and effectively! It is important to us be involved with and look after our community.
If you’ve sustained a knee injury, are worried about that niggle in your knee or want to reduce your risk of injury before starting the season, come in and see our expert team! We’ll have you playing at your best and remain FREE under ACC.