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Anterior Knee Pain: Most Common Pathologies

Do you have anterior knee pain, or pain in the front of your knee, when playing basketball?

Today we will go over some of the most common diagnoses of anterior knee pain in basketball. One of the biggest things we advocate is that not all knee pain is the same! 

Each knee pain is different and each person will respond differently because of their specific impairments leading into that diagnosis. 

When it comes to basketball athletes there are 3 major knee pain diagnoses that occur in the front of the knee. These three diagnoses are patellofemoral pain syndrome, jumper’s knee and osgood schlatters’ disease. We will go over each one in detail.

1. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

     Patellofemoral pain syndrome is one of the most common injuries athletes face and sometimes gets confused with Jumper’s Knee. PFPS will be painful in or around the knee cap. Furthermore, PFPS is sometimes called IlioTibial (IT) band syndrome, or runner’s knee, because of the similar pathophysiology of the injury. Studies have shown females are more predisposed to it than males due to wider Q angles, AKA wider hips.

     Common signs and symptoms of PFPS are pain in or around the knee cap, pain when sitting for prolonged periods of time (>30 minutes), and pain when going down stairs or walking downhill. It usually does not hurt at rest, but during activity. Also, PFPS does not discriminate against age because it affects people of all ages. We have seen athletes as young as 12 years old, as well as, mature athletes (25-50 years old) having PFPS. This diagnosis a lot of times gets mistaken for the next diagnosis we will go over.

2. Jumper's Knee

     Jumper’s Knee is a chronic overuse tendon injury, not typically an acute or inflammation issue. It is thickening, or improper healing, of the patellar tendon and is more of a chronic issue than patellar tendonitis. To learn more, we have a video here explaining the differences between jumper’s knee and patellar tendinitis.

     To summarize the difference, patellar tendonitis gets better with rest and Jumper’s Knee does not. Patellar tendonitis is an inflammatory issues, while Jumper’s Knee is chronic improper healing of the patellar tendon.

     Jumper’s knee is very common among basketball or volleyball players since the sports involve a lot of jumping/landing and changing direction. Furthermore, this condition is more common among males than females and occurs more frequently after the age of 13. Jumper’s Knee is a chronic issue; therefore, to be classified with Jumper’s Knee the athlete must have symptoms for more than 4 weeks. Some of the common signs and symptoms include patellar tendon pain when jumping, running, participating in sport, or when performing the decline squat test. 

Here is a video of the decline squat test in which we use as an assessment for jumpers knee

     To summarize, the decline test places maximal stress on the patellar tendon; therefore, if there is an issue with the patellar tendon, pain will be provoked on the patellar tendon. Also, Jumper’s Knee sometimes gets misdiagnosed with the next diagnosis, but they are completely different.

3. Osgood Schlatters' Disease

     The third diagnosis is Osgood Schlatters’ Disease (OSD). Osgood Schlatters’ Disease is a bit different because it predominantly affects a specific age group. It normally affects teens under the age of 16/17, and the hallmark sign is a painful bump below your knee. Click on this video above to learn more about how you get Osgood Schlatters’ Disease

     To give you a quick summary it occurs usually before the age of 16/17, and it happens because bones are growing faster than muscles and tendons. As a result, the patellar tendon pulls on the tibial tuberosity. OSD is a traction apophysitis of the tibial tuberosity caused by repetitive strain on the quadriceps femoris muscle. In other words, the quadriceps muscle and patellar tendon repetitively pulls on the bony insertion, which leads to the painful bump. Common risk factors and signs and symptoms of OSD are a painful bump below your knee, under the age of 17, recent/current growth spurt and pain when activating the quadriceps muscle (extending your knee)

Conclusion

     To summarize the different diagnosis here are some quick tidbits. If you have pain on or around the kneecap you may be dealing with patellofemoral pain syndrome. If you have pain just below your kneecap, at the patellar tendon, when jumping and running, you most likely are dealing with Jumper’s Knee. Finally, if you are under the age of 16/17 and you have a painful bump below your knee, you most likely are dealing with Osgood Schlatters’ Disease. Knowing which diagnosis you have plays a huge role in your rehab. The rehab for osgood schlatters is completely different from the rehab for jumper’s knee, and completely different from patellofemoral pain syndrome.

     So we went over three common injuries that basketball players face in this video. Which injury do you have? Comment below which injury you are dealing with and we will start making more videos specifically for that injury.

Need More Help?

The Jumper’s Knee P/Rehab Program is a physical therapist developed, step-by-step program to help you get back to playing basketball and jumping. It will teach you how to regain and improve your mobility, and how to build a strong foundation for your knees and tendons. We dive into proper landing mechanics and progressing back to jumping. Ultimately, our program is designed to get you ready for anything the sport of basketball throws at you!

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  • 8-Week Program; 5 Training Days per Week
  • 100+ Video Instructed Exercises
  • Detailed Step-By-Step Exercise Videos
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The Osgood Schlatters’ Disease Management Program was developed by Doctors of Physical therapy with over 10+ years of clinical expertise. This is a progressive step-by-step program to help you appropriately manage your symptoms, especially during flare-ups, while addressing common muscular imbalances and optimize movement mechanics to be able to return to playing basketball and living an active lifestyle.

Although, there is no cure for Osgood Schlatters’ Disease, we believe that an athlete can be proactive in their rehab and recovery while they grow out of this pathology!

Ultimately, our program is designed to get you back into playing basketball, and to take advantage of the time that you’re off from playing!

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  • 14-Week Program; 5 Training Days per Week
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The Basketball Doctors - Gabriel Ignacio Physical Therapist

Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

The Basketball Doctors - Marco Lopez Physical Therapist

Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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