In order to better understand quadriceps tendonitis, it is important to understand the anatomy and function of the knee and the quadriceps tendon. Please review the section on knee anatomy before reviewing this section.
The kneecap (patella) is a small bone in the front of the knee. It glides up and down a groove in the thigh bone (femur) as the knee bends and straightens. Tendons connect muscles to bone. The strong quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh attach to the top of the patella via the quadriceps tendon. This tendon covers the patella and continues down to form the “rope-like” patellar tendon. The patellar tendon in turn, attaches to the shin bone (tibia). The quadriceps muscles, straighten the knee by pulling at the patella via the quadriceps tendon. Quadriceps tendinitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the quadriceps tendon.
What causes quadriceps tendonitis?
Quadriceps tendonitis usually occurs as a result of overdoing an activity and placing too much stress on the quadriceps tendon before it is strong enough to handle the stress. This overuse results in ‘micro-tears’ in the quadriceps tendon which leads to inflammation and pain. Over time damage to the quadriceps tendon can occur. In extreme cases, the quadriceps tendon may become damaged to the point of complete rupture.
Quadriceps tendonitis is common in people involved in activities that include a lot of running, jumping, stopping and starting. Pain from quadriceps tendinitis is felt in the area just above the patella. There may be swelling in and around the quadriceps tendon and it may be sensitive to touch. The pain can be mild or in some cases the pain can be so bad that it prevents athletes from playing their sport.
Examination techniques that detect tenderness and swelling in or around the quadriceps tendon are helpful in determining if someone has quadriceps tendonitis. X-rays are occasionally done to make sure that the quadriceps tendon does not have any calcium in it. Other tests such as diagnostic ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are sometimes used to rule out more extensive damage to the quadriceps tendon.
How do you treat quadriceps tendonitis?
Treatment of quadriceps tendonitis may include relative rest, icing, medications to reduce inflammation and pain, stretching and strengthening exercises. Quadriceps tendonitis may be prevented by easing into jumping or running sports and by using good training techniques. Off-season strength training of the legs, particularly the quadriceps muscles, can also help. Doctors and physiotherapists trained in treating this type of overuse injury can outline a treatment plan specific to each individual.
Please visit the links section for additional information on quadriceps tendonitis. Links have been provided to other websites as well as online medical journals. Other knee injury topics can also be accessed.