I remember the first time getting patellar tendonitis. I was 23 years old, playing a lot of soccer, going back in forth from America’s MLS to Denmark & Singapore & then back to MLS and the [then called] A-League. One time after a game we traveled 2 hours in a minivan from Cincinnati to Louisville for a pre-season scrimmage. My knee was really flaring up with pain, but when I would prop it up or even straighten, it would feel instant relief. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
What is patellar tendonitis?
Patellar tendonitis is when the tendon becomes inflamed and irritated; this usually comes from lots of jumping. Sports like in basketball or volleyball, or lots of stop and go change of direction like soccer & tennis.
It’s a tendon that connects from the kneecap (the patella) and goes down to the shinbone (tibia). This also connects to the quadriceps tendon & quad muscle.
Is this a serious injury?
It can be serious if you tear the patellar tendon, but doesn’t happen often.
In my life of playing soccer as a youth, college and pro as well as 8+ years training youth & adults, I have never seen anyone tear it.
There are a fair share of players who get the patellar tendonitis. For a soccer player it is important because this allows your leg to straighten & bend as well as give you the kicking motion.
Patellar tendonosis (different than tendonitis) is more of a chronic condition that is more gradual. It also causes microscopic tears. Again this is something that I have not seen much in my playing career or coaching.
The patellar tendonitis is the injury that most athletes will see.
How you can relieve the pain
4 things to do:
- With patellar tendonitis you want to stretch out your quad & IT band [pic above] to help relieve some pain. When the quad is tight it pulls on the knee which causes discomfort & irritation.
- Avoid keeping your knee bent for long periods. Example: Sitting for 1+ hours with your knee bent can cause pain/irritation in the knee.
- Ice after you play to get inflammation down.
- A good warm up or even use a heat pad before you play. Youth players can put a pad on the knee 10 mins during the car ride to practice or game.
During the start of one season at Cincinnati the club rented mini vans to travel 2 hours for a game. There was not much leg room and my knee felt it.
The plant leg [non kicking] is the one that feels the pain usually. The pressure and weight from planting as you kick adds up.
The point of my story is we all have to travel tight at times. Make sure when you are traveling long distances to stretch the knees, hips & back out every 30-45 mins and change sitting positions.
Traveling tips & tricks for patellar tendonitis
The sitting position is bad for our knees, hips & back, especially when we have an injury!
A lot of you reading this are Players, Parents or Coaches who travel for tournaments from Dallas to Houston, Midland to Fort Worth, New York to New Jersey or any U.S. Metroplex which is an easy 1+ hour drive.
Make sure you travel comfortable, extend your legs every 45 minutes or so, especially with injuries!
If you have a hurt knee, make sure you keep it active and moving by straightening it, bending it and try to even prop it up for a few minutes just to let the blood move. While stopping to get gas or snacks continue to walk or stretch.
Cool Travel Tricks are rolling or pumping your ankles and doing knee bends just to keep the blood flowing and muscles from getting tight or sore. I once had a PT in Denver (shout out: Christian G!) tell me that you don’t want to sit in any position for long periods of time. Change your position when your body starts to talk to you (hurt).
3 causes for patellar tendonitis
Jumping & Planting are going to be 2 of the main ways an athlete can develop Patellar Tendonitis. For this reason basketball & soccer players who play high level, which could be youth select players up to pros.
Jumping for basketball players is something you have to do often so the extra pressure and weight of not only jumping up but landing on the hard court.
I think jumping hurts worse than landing personally… In this situation you have 3 things that lead to basketball players getting this injury:
- Hard Court Surface for basketball players or any sport on hard court.
4 more causes
- PLANTING is the issue for soccer players, as they kick the ball with their right foot they are planting with their left foot, which is the foot that gets the injury more than the strong foot. EX: In Soccer, a Right footed player would call it their “Strong Foot” and their Left foot their “Weak Foot”. And yes, for a Lefty they would call their left the strong and right their weak.
- Another cause for soccer players, or any athlete, is going to be LACK OF STRETCHING before and after training and games. You need to warm up & cool down! The quad pulls on the patellar when the quad is tight so stretching the quad is going to help relieve that extra tension.
- KEEP YOUR HAMSTRINGS STRONG because, if they get weak, it will make the quad do extra work and tighten up which could pull on the patellar, causing pain.
- Lots of RUNNING & playing can cause different forms of small injuries, so take care of yourself early. Do the simple things, like warming up and stretching. This will make a huge difference.
Most injuries lead up from the same root causes, which are lack of warming up, stretching, cool down stretches, & overuse – which usually means not taking care of your body between sessions.
Educate & protect yourself!
Parents: make sure you educate your kids on warming up, stretching & cool downs. Doing a little core work at home will also help keep most body parts strong and protected.
Coaches: set yourself apart from the rest and make sure your players are getting proper warm ups, stretching, training sessions. Don’t do ball striking at the beginning of training because the body is not ready for that right away.
Players: you have to do these things on your own if your coach doesn’t. Get to practice a little early and jog around the field one time or back and forth using a 15 yard area.
Try to avoid these things
If you have patellar tendonitis, try to avoid jumping over hurdles, especially before a warm up.
No reason to irritate it more and slow down recovery. If possible try not to do jumping exercises when feeling the pain. Though if you have to, make sure you get a good warmup before practice starts.
Basketball players play every day on hard court and a good warm up is a big reason they stay healthy.
In college our head sports trainer told us the basketball team did a better job than all the sports at warming up. I was surprised because I thought our soccer team did such a great job compared to when I was in high school.
It’s amazing how much you learn going from high school to college to pro. The preparation and treatment methods keep getting better! This is why I share the knowledge; so you know for yourselves.
Make sure you avoid hitting hard shots/passes before you warm up! This is bad for your knees, hip flexors, groin & back!
How do you know if you have patellar tendonitis?
These 3 things will cause pain on top of the kneecap (the patella).
- Walking down stairs
- Running before you warm up
How you can treat this injury
Treatment is simple and easy so make sure you do these things.
This injury could last months, but if you keep quads stretched out, strengthen quads and core, you’ll be able to get healthy again.
For playing, you can also use pre-wrap by wrapping it around your knee and then rolling it up or down. It makes the shape of a circular band. The (pic below) is one I made for a client at training.
Another option is get a patellar strap which goes under your knee and all the way around your knee.
6 things that can help you
- Warm up by (1) jogging or (2) using heat pad on your knee while you are traveling in the car to go play. In college and pro, players will put heat pads on for 10 mins.
- Stretch the Quad good before and after you play but warm up first. This helps prevent the quad from pulling on the knee which causes some of the pain besides the inflammation.
- Use the Patellar band to help relieve the pull and pain. See the picture above. It’s pre-wrap that trainers use. Wrap it around your knee 5 or 6 times, then roll it up or down. This makes a band which can be placed under your knee cap. If it’s too tight you can pull on it to loosen.
- ICE using a ice bag or a ice cup massage. Ice cups are good when you’re in a hurry. Get paper cups, fill with water, freeze. Peel the top of cup. Rub on knee 5 minutes. Use a towel because it will drip! If using an ice bag be careful icing the outside of knee more than 10 mins. You can “freeze” the common peroneal nerve, which can make your lower leg go numb and hurt. Ages 12 & under ice 10 mins. Teens or adults ice 20 minutes.
- Ice Bath for 7 – 10 minutes is great for most injuries, especially the hip, because it’s so hard to ice with a bag. I remember while on a trial with Miami FC, FIFA World Cup winner Zinho would take 7 minutes in the ice bath. Most people do 10-20 minutes. In my opinion do 7-10 minutes. Youth players, don’t exceed 10 mins.
- Hot & Cold is great if you have a hot or bathtub. Don’t miss out on this!
Strengthening exercise for quads and knees
Video below can help you strengthen both quads and knees.
IF this is painful or uncomfortable, don’t do it for now or start higher up the first few days/weeks. You’ll get stronger within days and can gradually increase.
Your legs/quads will probably start to shake after 45 seconds. This means the quads aren’t very strong, but will become stronger every time you do this. After a few weeks you can probably go 2 minutes without legs shaking.
Our Most Popular Posts:
- 3 ways to strike the ball with power
- How to boost confidence in soccer
- 8 best 1st- touch drills
- Expert dribbling tips
- Goal side defending
Follow @GFTskills on Social Media