5 Patella Tendonitis Exercises For Athletes

Patellar tendonitis is an overuse injury that affects the tendon that connects the kneecap (also known as the patellar) to your shin bone. This tendon becomes inflamed and irritated causing discomfort below and above the kneecap area. This can be due to repetitive movements that have created an increase in load on the tendon beyond its ability to cope with.    

The patellar tendon helps to extend your knee allowing you to jump, kick and walk. Patellar tendonitis is also known as ‘jumpers knee’ because patellar tendonitis is often seen in athletes playing sports that involve a lot of jumping such as basketball and volleyball. This constant jumping causes the quadriceps to tighten pulling on your quadricep tendon, which leads to inflammation below the knee. Patella tendonitis is not however, limited to individuals who play sports. 

Your exercise physiologist will prescribe knee rehabilitation exercises to athletes with patellar tendonitis to help stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee.  This will ensure that you have a speedy recovery and return to your sport with as little down time as possible.

What does Patellar tendonitis rehabilitation involve?

Rehabilitation for a knee injury or overuse injury like patellar tendonitis often starts with an experienced exercise physiologist. Your Exercise Physiologist will prescribe knee rehabilitation exercises specific for you as an athlete. The aim of this personalised program is to strengthen and lengthen your muscles around your knee cap and to help facilitate recovery. Many athletes have an exercise physiologist on their team even after the rehabilitation phase to help them reduce the risk of re-injuring their knee. 

In the early stages, gentle stretching may decrease the pain around your knee by encouraging circulation and blood flow to tissues, reducing muscle stiffness and spasming however, this is unlikely to completely get rid of your pain.

In the early stages of injury it is important to consult with a soft tissue occupational therapist. A soft tissue occupational therapist will use hands on treatments to reduce muscle spasming in your quadricep muscle to help to de-load your patella tendon. This treatment should provide significant pain relief and will accelerate your recovery. 

Knee rehabilitation exercises for athletes

It is important to consult with an Exercise Physiologist before completing any exercise program. Here are some examples of knee rehabilitation exercises for athletes who have been diagnosed with patellar tendonitis. It is important to remember to start each patellar tendonitis rehabilitation exercise slowly and to stop and consult with an Exercise Physiologist if the exercise is causing you any pain. These are great knee rehabilitation exercises for athletes who have been diagnosed with patellar tendonitis, have been cleared from your doctor and whilst under the guidance from your exercise physiologist. 

Exercise 1: Leg extension with foam roller

For this patellar tendonitis knee rehabilitation exercise, your athlete will need a smooth foam roller.

  1. Laying with your back on the floor place a smooth foam roller underneath the back of your knee with your heel on the floor. This is your starting position.
  2. Slowly lift your lower half of your affected leg up so your heel is off the floor and your leg is straight. Keep the back of your knee on the foam roller at all times.
  3. Hold your leg straight for 6-8 counts.
  4. Slowly bend your knee and lower your heel back to the floor. Rest for 6-8 counts.
  5. For best results repeat 8-12 times.

Exercise 2: Quadricep stretch

  1. Balancing on a wall bring your foot up to your glutes and hold for approximately 30 seconds.

Exercise 3:

For this patellar tendonitis knee rehabilitation exercise, your athlete will need a resistance band.

  1. Tie the ends of the resistance band together around a pole to create a loop or shut the door with the knot on the other side. Facing the pole or door, step into the loop with your affected leg. Position the resistant band behind the knee. This is your starting position.
  2. Keeping your knee slightly bent, step back from the pole or door so that there is a bit of tension on the band.
  3. Place your good leg about a step behind your affected leg.
  4. Slowly straighten your affected knee by slowly pushing back on the resistant band. Do this by tensing the quadricep muscles.
  5. Hold your leg straight for 6-8 counts.
  6. Slowly bend your knee to return to starting position.
  7. For best results repeat 8-12 times.

Exercise 4: Hamstring stretch 

For this patellar tendonitis knee rehabilitation exercise, your athlete will only need a yoga mat to lay on. 

  1. Lying on your back on a yoga mat or on the floor with both legs bent. This is your starting position.
  2. Slowly lift one leg (keeping it bent) and bring your knee back towards your chest.
  3. Link your hands behind your thigh and straighten your leg.
  4. Pull your straight leg back towards your head until you feel a stretch. 

Exercise 5: Half squat 

For this patellar tendonitis knee rehabilitation exercise, your athlete can use a wall or rail to help with balance. 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and stretch your arms out in front of you. This is your starting position.
  2. Slowly bend your knees until you are in a half sitting position. 
  3. Keep your back straight and chest lifted making sure you are not leaning forward.
  4. With your feet on the floor hold this position for 3 counts.
  5. Slowly straighten your knee to return to starting position.
  6. For best results repeat 30 times.

It is best to consult with a health professional before starting a new exercise program if you have existing pain. At Infused Health our highly trained Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist and Exercise Physiologist specialise in knee rehabilitation exercises for athletes. You can make an appointment today by calling 0401 876 623.

Published by Urban Health HQ

We are a health and fitness centre offering Occupational Therapy, Exercise Physiology, Personal Training and Group Fitness classes.

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