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Patellar Tendon Tears

The patellar tendon is the strong, fibrous band of tissue that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). This tendon is essential for proper knee function, as it helps to straighten and extend the leg. However, like any other tendon in the body, it can become injured or torn, leading to significant pain and limitations in mobility.

Patellar tendon tears can occur for a variety of reasons, including sudden trauma, overuse, or degeneration due to aging or chronic conditions. Patellar tendon tears are common in athletes ages 30-40 who participate in sports that require repetitive jumping or running. However, a tear can occur at any age. Moreover, people with certain chronic diseases such as chronic kidney disease can disrupt the blood supply and weaken tendons leading to a tear. Additionally, individuals who have previously had knee surgery, such as ACL reconstruction, may be more susceptible to patellar tendon tears.

The symptoms of a patellar tendon tear can vary depending on the severity of the injury. In mild cases, there may be only slight discomfort or aching in the knee. However, severe tears can cause the kneecap to disconnect from the shinbone. Symptoms include significant pain, swelling and stiffness, instability and an inability to extend the leg or bear weight on the affected knee. In some cases, a popping or snapping sensation may be felt at the time of injury.

Your LALL Orthopedics+ clinician will review of your medical history, ask how and when your injury occurred and your symptoms. They will perform a physical examination focused on the kneecap, and test range of motion. If the knee is very swollen and painful, they may inject a local anesthetic so the knee can be examined. They will also order imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to evaluate the soft tissues.

Treatment options will depend on the severity of the injury and may include rest, physical therapy, and surgery. Only very small, partial tears are treated nonsurgically. Nonsurgical treatments such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) may be recommended. Physical therapy can also help to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve range of motion in the knee. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also be prescribed to help manage pain and inflammation. A complete tendon rupture will require surgery.

Dr. Ajay C. Lall is a former dual sport NCAA collegiate athlete (football and track & field), American board certified, triple fellowship-trained expert orthopedic surgeon who specializes in diagnosing and treating knee injuries. He treats non-athletes and athletes at all levels of play from collegiate to professional to the Olympic level. Dr. Lall is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon who cares for all patients like family. Contact LALL Orthopedics + to schedule a consultation, receive the correct diagnosis, and undergo state-of-the-art treatment options.

At a Glance

Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS

  • Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
  • Triple Fellowship Trained
  • Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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