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Patellar Tendon Rupture: Symptoms, Treatment & Recovery

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

A patellar tendon rupture is a very painful (and often loud) injury of the knee. This lesson will provide all kinds of information on this type of injury, including the symptoms, treatment, and recovery.

Patellar Tendon Rupture

Have you ever heard of the NFL players Jimmy Graham (tight end) or Victor Cruz (wide-receiver)? Both of these professional football players are former Pro-Bowlers, a title given to the top players at each position in the league. What do these two exceptional athletes also have in common? They have both suffered a ruptured patellar tendon injury.

The knee joint is made up of three main bones, the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), and patella (knee cap). The patella is connected to the tibia by the patellar tendon, and a patellar tendon rupture occurs when this tendon suffers a complete tear. This type of injury is often a sports injury (just like Jimmy Graham and Victor Cruz) caused by jumping, quick pivoting while running, or a hard collision.


The patellar tendon connects the patella (knee cap) to the tibia (shin bone).
knee


Symptoms

The most common symptom of a patellar tendon rupture is intense pain in the knee. When suffering this injury, a person will usually immediately fall to the ground in pain. Additionally, this injury usually results in a decreased range of motion in the knee as the person will not be able to fully straighten the leg.

It should be noted that when the patellar tendon ruptures, there is often a loud 'pop' that can be heard. The patellar tendon is a very thick and strong tendon, so when it ruptures, it can cause a loud sound. Also, the patella will often become dislocated from its normal position in the knee, usually sitting much higher up in the leg following a patellar tendon rupture.

Treatment

It is important to seek professional medical care immediately after suffering a patellar tendon rupture. Before seeing a doctor, a person can apply ice to the knee to help control the pain and reduce the swelling. Ice should be applied for 10-15 minutes, using a towel or cloth between the ice and the skin. Additionally, a person can take an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen to help alleviate the pain.

A patellar tendon rupture will most often require surgical repair. During surgery, the doctors will sew or stitch the tendon back together. If the tendon is torn off from the patella, the tendon can be reattached to the bone using screws and pins.

A ruptured patellar tendon will most often require surgical repair.
surgery

Recovery

Recovery time for a patellar tendon rupture will vary from person to person. However, a person will usually be put in a knee brace the keeps the knee straight and immobilized for the first couple weeks. After a couple weeks, the person can start to slowly bend the knee.

Rehab for a patellar tendon rupture will require physical therapy. Physical therapy will involve various exercises and stretches designed to increase the strength and range of motion of the knee joint. Full recovery can take anywhere from four months to a full year, depending on the severity of the injury, the health and strength of the knee joint prior to injury, and other factors.

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