The joint may be thought of has having three compartments; the inner, outer and front compartments. The tendon that attaches the kneecap to the front of the shin bone is called the patellar tendon. The kneecap protects the front of the joint, and also acts as a pulley mechanism for the large thigh muscles (quadriceps) to straighten the leg at the knee joint, such as when jumping.
Tendinitis may be caused by new, strenuous and often repetitive activities which cause injury or irritation of the tendons. An injury from unusually strenuous activities or sudden stretching of the tendon may cause tendonitis. Frequently, activities such as prolonged and repetitive jumping or kicking activities may lead to tendinitis. If the activity is continued (“playing through the pain”) or untreated, the tendonitis may become worse or chronic, and is more difficult to treat.
Usually the pain is felt in the front of the knee beneath the kneecap. It is worse with standing up after sitting, or walking up stairs. If sports activities have caused patellar tendonitis, it usually is painful during or after participating in the sport. When the knee is at rest there is less pain, but it usually will hurt when used again.
If there is tenderness just below the kneecap, patellar tendonitis may be responsible. A history of excessive jumping or kicking also suggests this is the problem.
Normally, patellar tendonitis improves with rest and ice. If not, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications (“NSAIDs”) may be helpful. Kneecap braces or straps can reduce pain. Cortisone shots and surgery are rarely needed to treat patellar tendonitis.