Understanding the Basics of Tennis Knee
Tennis knee, also known as jumper’s knee, is one of the most common overuse injuries in sports. It’s an inflammation of the tendons that attach the kneecap to the shinbone, and it affects athletes of all levels. The good news is that it can be treated with rest, physical therapy and medication.
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What Causes Tennis Knee?
Tennis knee is caused by repetitive movements that overwork the knee joint. Common activities that can cause tennis knee include running, jumping, lunging and squatting. Tennis players are particularly vulnerable to this injury because they are constantly using their knees to move and pivot.
Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Knee
If you have tennis knee, you may experience:
- Pain – Pain near the kneecap that can be dull, aching or sharp. It may be worse when bending or straightening the leg.
- Swelling – Swelling around the kneecap that can be tender to the touch.
- Weakness – Weakness in the knee when climbing stairs or squatting.
- Popping or Cracking – Popping or cracking noises coming from the knee when moving it.
- Stiffness – Stiffness in the knee that makes it harder to move.
What Does Tennis Knee Feel Like?
Tennis knee can feel different for everyone. Generally, it feels like an aching or burning sensation around the kneecap. The pain may be worse when bending or straightening the leg, or when putting weight on it. The area may also be tender to the touch and can swell up in the evening.
Risk Factors for Tennis Knee
Anyone can develop tennis knee, but there are certain factors that can make you more susceptible to this injury. These include:
- Age – Tennis knee is more common in people over the age of 30.
- Sports Participation – People who are active in sports such as tennis, running, basketball and soccer are more likely to develop tennis knee.
- Gender – Women are more prone to tennis knee than men.
- Equipment – Using the wrong type of equipment, such as tennis shoes that don’t provide enough support, can increase your risk of tennis knee.
Diagnosing Tennis Knee
If you think you may have tennis knee, it’s important to see a doctor or physical therapist to get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and medical history, and may perform a physical examination. They may also order X-rays, MRI or ultrasound to look for signs of inflammation or damage to the tendon.
Treating Tennis Knee
Treatment for tennis knee depends on the severity of the injury. In most cases, rest and physical therapy are the most effective treatment options. Your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling.
Rest is the first step in treating tennis knee. It’s important to give your knee time to heal by avoiding activities that put stress on the joint. This may include running, jumping and other activities that involve the knee. You may need to use crutches or wear a knee brace to keep your knee immobilized while it heals.
Physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles around the knee and reduce pain and swelling. Your physical therapist may prescribe exercises to improve flexibility and range of motion, as well as to help strengthen the muscles around the knee. They may also recommend taping or bracing to support the knee.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and inflammation. This may include ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen. Your doctor may also prescribe stronger medications, such as corticosteroids or injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP).
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged tendon. This is usually only recommended if other treatments have failed and the pain is not manageable.
Preventing Tennis Knee
The best way to prevent tennis knee is to avoid activities that put a lot of stress on the knee joint. If you do play sports, make sure to use proper equipment and warm up before playing. Stretching and strengthening exercises can also help to reduce the risk of injury.
Tennis knee is a common injury, but it doesn’t have to put a stop to your activities. With proper treatment and prevention, you can get back to playing your favorite sports in no time.