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Jumper’s Knee: Do I Have It?

What is Jumper's Knee & How do You Know if You Have It?

Jumper’s knee is the most common knee injury in basketball athletes. Most people confuse jumper’s knee with patellar tendinitis. Although they have similar symptoms, they are very different and treatment for each are very different. Patellar tendinitis is an inflammatory injury while jumper’s knee is more of a tendon degeneration injury that occurs over time.

Jumper’s knee is pain in the patellar tendon, which is right below the knee cap that has lingered for over 6 weeks. It is common among basketball and volleyball players due to the stresses of consistent jumping and change in direction.

If you want to learn more detail about Jumper’s Knee, see our Previous Blog and YouTube Video.

In this blog, we are going to dive deeper into helping you determine if you truly have Jumper’s Knee or not. If you feel like you may have it, keep scrolling and let us help you figure that out!

What Causes Jumper's Knee?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked. There are multiple ways athletes can develop jumper’s knee. It is a chronic issue that builds up over several weeks; therefore, there isn’t just one day of you playing basketball or landing wrong that leads to jumper’s knee. The main thing is that athletes typically increase their total volume too fast, and their body and tendons are not ready for it. For example, here are a couple scenarios. 

First, one scenario is that the athlete starts a jumping program during the season or even in the off season, which involves a lot of jumping and landings, and the patellar tendon is not ready for it. This increased jumping over those next 4-6 weeks of the jump program led to patellar tendinopathy.

Second scenario is an athlete recovering from an injury. For example, a moderate ankle sprain that limited their activity for 4 weeks. Instead of slowly getting back to basketball, they go straight into weight training, basketball practices, and games, which involve a lot of running, jumping and cutting. Their muscles and tendons are deconditioned from the prolonged rest with no build-up; as result, the patellar tendon gets overloaded beyond its capacity. 

In both scenarios we get an overload, or excessive stress, on the patellar tendon and it is not ready for the demands that were placed on it. We encourage basketball athletes to maintain activity just at a lower intensity or volume, and get back into strength training when appropriate. This will help maintain tissue capacity as much as possible to prevent this overload and overstress situation. In conclusion, rest will not correct the underlying problem; in contrast, if you rest, it will only exacerbate the issue.

What Are Some Signs & Symptoms?

1. Pain at Patellar Tendon

There will be pain right below your kneecap, specially at patellar tendon, during or after running, jumping, or playing sports.

2. Pain Keeps Coming Back

The pain will go away initially after rest; however, when you go back to sport, the pain comes back. As we mentioned, pain would have started several weeks ago, and may come and go depending on your activity.

3. Pain with Decline Squat Test

A common test performed as clinicians to help determine if someone has jumper’s knee is the single leg decline squat test. In this test, the patellar tendon is maximally stressed; therefore if it hurts when performing the test, you most likely have jumper’s knee. In order to set up the decline squat test, you do not need a decline board (helpful if you have one); instead, you can use any elevated surface. It has to be around 4-6 inches in height, and then perform a single leg squat from it. Check the video above!

How Do I Know if I Have It?

There is not 1 specific test or one thing that is going to tell you if you have jumper’s knee or not. As clinicians we take into account everything an athlete reports, demonstrates to us, and through our clinical examination to determine what pathology someone could be dealing with. For example, if an athlete tells us that they have had on and off knee pain at their patellar tendon for the past few months, pain came back after trying to rest, and pain with squatting, landing, running, and decline squat test. The suspicion of that athlete having jumper’s knee is high.

You Are Pretty Confident You Have Jumper’s Knee, What’s Next?

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Everhart et al. Treatment Options for Patellar Tendinopathy: A systematic Review  
Patellar Tendinopathy Clinical Review APTA 2019.
Rio et al Isometric exercise induces analgesia and reduces inhibition in patellar tendinopathy.
Malliaras et al. Achilles and Patellar Tendinopathy Loading Programmes

The Basketball Doctors - Gabriel Ignacio Physical Therapist

Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

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Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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