What is a Patellar Tendon Rupture?
A tendon rupture is usually caused by a forceful blow or collision. This often happens during sports activities. Other causes include:
- Falls that result in cuts to the tendon
Weakness caused by:
- Tendinitis (jumper’s knee)
- Tendinopathy from repeated stress
- A medical condition such as kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes
- Previous knee surgery
- Long-term use of corticosteroids or use of anabolic steroids
Diagnosis and Tests
Your healthcare provider will ask you about the injury and your medical history. The knee will be examined for common signs of injury, including:
- Whether or not you can straighten your leg
- Noticeable and painful changes in the tendon
- Displaced kneecap
Imaging tests, such as X-ray, ultrasonography, and MRI can help your healthcare provider see any damage to your bones and soft tissue.
Treatments & Prevention
Surgery is usually recommended to repair a ruptured patellar tendon. During surgery, the kneecap is positioned properly and the torn tendon is attached to the bottom of the kneecap with sutures (stitches) or with metal anchor screws. If the damaged tendon is too short, it may be necessary to graft extra tissue onto the tendon to perform the repair.
After surgery, you will need to rest the leg for a couple weeks. You’ll need to use crutches and may have either a full cast or a brace that keep the knee from moving.
Physical therapy is recommended after a few weeks. It is important to follow your exercise plan exactly as ordered to ensure that your tendon heals properly and to build strength gradually. You will likely wear a brace for several weeks to protect and support your knee as it heals.
It can take 6 to 12 months for a complete recovery. Athletes will need to have their strength tested and reviewed by the surgeon before returning to the field of play.