Just about everyone has knee pain at one point or another. Just a part of life and getting older, right? Most of the time, yes. But if you are an athlete in a predominantly jumping sport, there may be another contributor. Jumper's knee is a term that was first used in 1973 to describe tendon injury or inflammation at the point where the tendon adheres to the bone, and it affects 20 percent of jumping athletes.
While it is entirely possible to suffer from jumper's knee without playing a jumping sport, such as basketball, volleyball, or track and field,injuries tend to occur more frequently during these sports. The impact to the tendon upon landing results in greater tension because the body tends to land off center. Conversely, the act of jumping is a symmetrical activity, evening out the contraction of muscles. The more often the landing impact, the greater the risk for debilitating knee pain and even a clean tear of the tendon from the bone.
Of course, there are other factors that contribute differently to the risk. These factors include gender, body weight, abnormal knee structure, and limb-length inequality, though non-biological factors, such as over training and playing on hard surfaces, may add to the risk more than anything else. While the particular cause of jumper's knee remains unclear, it is obvious that the risks of serious injury are lessened with moderated training, playing on more shock-absorbent surfaces, and providing additional support by using a knee brace with a special cutout for the knee cap or taping. This condition is difficult to diagnose in lab tests because tissue specimens do not usually show inflammation, so it is particularly important to not underestimate the potential causes of knee pain.
So if you have intense knee pain, how do you know if its jumper's knee? Here are some quick tips on what the stages of jumper's knee may feel like:
I-can-handle-it stage - knee pain after playing the sport, without seeing reduced performance
Shutting-out-the-intense-pain stage - knee pain during and after playing the sport, with still a somewhat satisfactory performance
Give-me-some-pain-pills-so-I-can-keep-playing stage - constant knee pain during and after play, with difficulty in accomplishing common moves and reduced performance
My-knee-is-on-fire-cut-it-off! stage - tendon fully detaches from the bone, necessitating surgery
Diagnosis is based on more than just the pain in the knee, however. Physicians may examine the patient's history, laboratory tests, ultrasounds, and MRIs when needed to make an informed diagnosis.
Whether a doctor diagnoses jumper's knee or not, there are some things you can do to ease the pain to stop any further injury or risk for any type of knee pain.
Less is blessed; moderate your activities that put intense or consistent pressure on the kneecap (e.g., jumping, squatting, etc.)
Colder is better; apply ice for 20-30 minutes four to six times a day, particularly after increased activity on the knee
Stretching those legs; hamstrings, quads, sides of the quads glutes, and the surrounding tissue of the kneecap
Evaluate range of motion; if you can't bend your knee or flex leg muscles without tear-jerking pain, you may want to see a doctor
Support my leg; special knee braces with a cutout for the kneecap may keep the tendons more stable during healing or even during play
Don't wait if you have knee pain. The give-me-some-pain-pills-so-I-can-keep-playing stage is the precursor to the my-knee-is-on-fire-cut-it-off! stage, and it too can require surgery. Moderate your knee-impacting activity, ice it, stretch, get a comfortable knee brace... just do something because surgery can be a pain in the kneecap.