Patellar Tendonitis or Tear?

A close up of a runner bending down to grab the back of their knee in painYou were out for a run or playing some recreation basketball and the next time you walk up a flight of stairs you feel pain at the bottom of your kneecap on the front of your knee.

Sometimes people assume the worst — they’ve torn their patellar tendon. That’s partially right, but only if you consider tiny tears of fibers in the patellar tendon. You haven’t torn the tendon, but you’ve developed a case of patellar tendonitis.

Dr. Desio helps our patients deal with patellar tendonitis at our Worcester sports medicine practice.

What is the patellar tendon?

The patellar tendon attaches the bottom of the kneecap (patella) to the top of the shinbone (tibia). Although called a tendon, this is actually a ligament that connects to two different bones, the patella and the tibia.

Is it a tear?

A torn patellar tendon usually involves a very strong force, as the patellar tendon is quite tough and durable. A direct hit on the knee in a football game can cause the patellar tendon tear. Often, landing awkwardly with the knee bent and the foot planted can cause this tear.

You’ll know if you’ve torn the patellar tendon because you’ll likely have a tearing or popping sensation. You’ll have pain and may have trouble straightening your knee. If you’ve completely torn it, there may be an indentation at the bottom of your kneecap.

Is it tendinitis?

If the pain isn’t continual, but occurs when you’re performing certain movements, such as climbing stairs or walking down a forward slope, or possibly after an intense workout, then you have patellar tendinitis.

Patellar tendinitis is a common overuse injury. Repeated stress on your patellar tendon creates tiny tears in the tendon, and your body is trying to repair it. That’s what the pain is all about; the body’s telling you to stop.

If you have tight thigh muscles and hamstrings, this can increase the strain you place on your patellar tendon. Also, if you tend to work a certain set of your leg muscles, but you neglect others, this can create an imbalance that creates uneven pull that could lead to tendinitis. Otherwise, running and jumping are usually behind your patellar tendinitis.


Dr. Desio can use a variety of treatments for patellar tendinitis. He’ll give you a variety of stretches and strengthening exercises. He’ll talk about the possible need for a patellar tendon strap. Physical therapy may be the way to go. We usually try to avoid corticosteroid injections for these injuries, as this can actually weaken the tendon and make it more likely to rupture.

Do you have pain on the front of your knee when climbing stairs and running? Contact us at Desio Sports Medicine, (508) 363-6363, and we can help you get past it.

Posted in: Knee Joints, Sports Injuries

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123 Summer St.
Suite 520
Worcester, MA 01608

Tel: 508.363.6363

123 Summer St. Suite 520, Worcester, MA 01608 508.363.6363