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Patellar tendonopathy or tendonitis is a condition characterized by pain in the knee cap tendon (patellar tendon) which connects the knee cap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia)
Patellar tendonopathy is most frequently caused by repetitive impact activities such as running and jumping. The tendon quality changes and it weakens, becoming painful and less able to cope with the stresses put across it during exercise. It is often referred to as “jumpers knee” because it is frequently seen in sports which involve a lot of jumping such as netball, basketball and volleyball.
Pain is frequently felt just below the kneecap. Swelling is also commonly seen in more established cases. Pain may initially develop with exercise and then settle, however, in more established cases the pain may be more persistent and prevent any exercise at all.
This is normally made after a thorough history and examination. Ultrasound or MRI will often be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Most patellar tendonopathy will respond to physiotherapy and activity modification.
In more persistent cases, a course of shockwave therapy will be used.
Only when non-operative treatment has failed will surgery be considered. This generally involves a day-case operation to excise the diseased tendon and drilling the lower end of the kneecap to encourage a healing response.