Jumper’s knee can occur from a sudden, unexpected overexertion of the patellar tendon (acute jumper’s knee), but it more commonly manifests as a recurring problem over time (chronic jumper’s knee). Individuals with patellar tendinopathy may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Pain during athletic motion. An athlete with patellar tendinopathy may feel a sharp, throbbing pain beneath their kneecap during a workout or competition. At first, the pain may worsen with athletic activity and recede with rest. If left untreated, the pain may become constant, present even during times of rest. Pain will be worst when kicking, running, or bending the knee, as these actions activate the patellar tendon.
- Swelling. Like most patellar injuries, jumper’s knee may cause mild swelling of the knee joint. Athlete’s may notice that their knee looks swollen and has a reduced range of motion.
- Bruising or redness. In extreme cases or immediately after acute injury, discoloration of the knee joint may also be noticeable.
- Discomfort during daily activities. The patellar tendon helps extend the knee to straighten the leg during daily activities such as kicking, climbing stairs, or bending down. Athletes with advanced cases of patellar tendinopathy may notice increased pain in their knee from daily activities.
Athletes may find that it is possible to continue athletic competition despite the early symptoms of patellar tendinopathy. While this activity can be tempting, it is important that athletic activity is ceased and that the athlete seek medical evaluation before returning to the physical stress of sports. Continuing to compete or practice through the initial symptoms of jumper’s knee can cause the condition to worsen.
How to Get an Accurate Knee Pain Diagnosis
Athletes who suspect they have sustained knee injuries should seek a medical consultations. The diagnosis for a knee injury often include:
- Physical examination. A doctor may evaluate the affected part of the knee to determine the presence of swelling, a limited range of motion, abrasions, bruising, or other common signs of a knee injury. Throughout the process, the physician is likely to inquire as to how the injury was sustained, the level of pain the athlete is in, and what symptoms have been identified.
- Consideration of patient medical history. Prior injury can elevate an athlete’s risk of sustaining an injury to the knee. With this in mind, a physician will likely evaluate an athlete’s medical history in order to determine if a former condition has increased the likelihood of a given injury being present.
- Medical imaging. Once a physician has completed the physical examination of an athlete’s knee, medical imaging such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help to form a final diagnosis.
A comprehensive evaluation of the athlete’s knee allows the physician to eliminate various possibilities, arrive at a diagnosis, and recommend a treatment plan.