Patella Tendinitis and The Life Of The Young Athlete
Young athletes today are more active than ever before and their schedules and
competition can really take a toll on their bodies due to physical requirements of
practices and games. Plus the pressure of competition is pushing our young
athletes to spend more hours then ever before on sports specific training.
Athletes are pressured to perfect their skill, because opportunities today are very
limited especially at the higher levels. So as parents we instill in our kids that if
you put in the work you will reap the benefits. But the one thing we are forgetting
is understanding the difference between a young athletes chronological age and
developmental age. Many coaches today focus primarily on an athletes
chronological age, which means if they are old enough and can perform the
movement then it’s ok to do it over and over again. Which is far from the truth,
we as coaches should focus on the developmental age of our kids, meaning we
should first help them start by building the proper foundation and mastering
their basic movements skills. Athletes are always going to overcompensate and
thats understandable with older athletes but for younger athletes that are still
developing we are doing a disservice. We need to focus on the health and safety
of our athletes, but instead preparation is geared toward the short term outcome
(winning) and not toward the process of longer term athletic development.
So what is Patella Tendinitis:
Patellar tendinitis, is a common overuse injury to your patella tendon, caused
by repetitive contraction of the quadriceps muscles in the thigh that stresses the
patellar tendon. The patellar tendon is a flexible but inelastic cord of strong
fibrous collagen tissue attaching a muscle to a bone. If you experience this injury
you will start to feel pain between your kneecap and where the tendon attaches
to your shinbone (tibia). Initially, you may only feel pain in your knee as you begin
physical activity or just after an intense workout. Overtime the tears in the
tendon multiply, and start to cause pain from inflammation and weakening of the
tendon which will start to interfere with playing your sport. The patellar tendon
works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend your knee so that you
can kick, run and jump. This is why it also known as jumpers knee…
Here are some of the risk factors that may contribute to the development of
• Physical activity. Running and jumping are most commonly associated
with patellar tendinitis. Sudden increases in how hard or how often you
engage in the activity also add stress to the tendon, as can changing your
• Tight leg muscles. Tight thigh muscles (quadriceps) and hamstrings, which
run up the back of your thighs, can increase strain on your patellar tendon.
• Muscular imbalance. If some muscles in your legs are much stronger than
others, the stronger muscles could pull harder on your patellar tendon. This
uneven pull could cause tendinitis.
• Chronic illness. Some illnesses disrupt blood flow to the knee, which
weakens the tendon. Examples include kidney failure, autoimmune diseases
such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis and metabolic diseases such as
To reduce your risk of developing patellar tendinitis, take these steps:
• Don't play through pain. As soon as you notice exercise-related knee pain,
ice the area and rest. Until your knee is pain-free, avoid activities that put
stress on your patellar tendon.
• Strengthen your muscles. Strong thigh muscles are better able to handle
the stresses that can cause patellar tendinitis. Eccentric exercises, which
involve lowering your leg very slowly after extending your knee, are
• Improve your technique. To be sure you're using your body correctly,
consider taking lessons or getting professional instructions when starting
a new sport or using exercise equipment.
For most people, treatment of patellar tendinitis begins with physical
therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee.