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Patellar Tendon Injury

The patellar tendon, in conjunction with the muscles in the front of your thigh, work to straighten the knee. A partial tear makes walking a challenge; a complete tear is a disabling injury that will require surgery.

What causes it?

An injury to the patellar tendon is usually the result of a fall or landing awkwardly from a jump.

How do you know you have it?

A popping or tearing sensation is often felt initially with a patellar tendon tear. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Inability to straighten the leg
  • Cramping
  • Buckling of the knee

How we fix it

The OSI orthopedic team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of a patellar tendon injury. Our goal is to restore knee function so you can enjoy the activities you love. While under our expert care, you may undergo the following:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and general medical history, then examine your knee and see how well you can straighten it, which provides clues to the presence of a patellar tendon tear.
  • X-rays: X-rays can show the position of the kneecap, which will be out of place with this kind of tear.
  • MRI: An MRI can show the location and severity of the tear.

Nonsurgical Treatment

If the patellar tendon tear is small, nonsurgical treatments generally work well:

  • Immobilization: A brace will keep the knee straight. Expect 3 to 6 weeks in a brace, most likely with crutches.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises (first with the brace and then without) to restore flexibility, range of motion and strength.

Surgical Treatment

Most people will need surgery to regain function of the knee. Those requiring surgery typically do better if the tendon is repaired shortly after the injury. Most heal completely from patellar tendon surgery, but there can be long-term weakness even with a successful repair. It may take a year for athletes attempting a return to competitive sports to achieve the former level of function.

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