Jumper’s knee

With winter just around the corner, the sporting seasons are now in full swing. Many teens and pre-teens are involved in multiple sports, both in school and club teams resulting in a surprisingly large training load. A particularly common complaint we are treating is knee pain, more specifically patella tendinopathy or “jumper’s knee”.

Patella tendinopathy is a condition that develops in adolescents, more commonly in boys who participate in sports such as basketball, volleyball, football, and other sports requiring repetitive jumping. Prior to puberty, the patella tendon is not fully attached to the knee cap and excessive load during this period can change some of the fundamental characteristics of the tendon.

Girls have a mature patella tendon by the age of 12-13 years, generally prior to the increased training demands of high school. This puts them at a lower risk of patella tendinopathy. Unfortunately for the boys, they do not develop a mature tendon until 14-16 years. By this age, higher training loads have already commenced, stressing the patella tendon during its critical developmental period.

How does patella tendinopathy present?

  • Localised pain at the base of the patella
  • Increased pain with increased load such as running and jumping
  • Pain may be bilateral, but often one side is worse

What are the risk factors?

  • Male gender
  • Repetitive quadriceps contractions (jumping, running)
  • Rapid increase in training load
  • Poor calf strength

What should I do if I think my child has patella tendinopathy?

  • Address the pain initially through ice and decreased load (NOT complete rest)
  • Anti-inflammatory medication used as directed may be beneficial for your child if tolerated
  • See a physiotherapist for assessment and treatment which may include:
    • Soft tissue massage
    • Taping
    • Commencement of isometric exercises for pain relief
    • Assessment of jumping/landing strategies to identify predisposing factors
    • Strengthening and stretching exercises to address the factors identified above

Patella tendinopathy can be a long-term injury that requires optimal load management and patience. There are some simple self-management strategies that can help control pain and improve function, so if you think your child may be suffering from patella tendinopathy come and see one of our physiotherapists here at CSSM to help get them back playing sport pain-free.


About the author

Kobi Phelan is a graduate of the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at the University of Melbourne and also holds a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science. Kobi places high importance on actively involving her patients in the design and implementation of their injury rehabilitation.



Mascaró, A., Cos, M. À., Morral, A., Roig, A., Purdam, C., & Cook, J. (2018). Load management in tendinopathy: Clinical progression for Achilles and patellar tendinopathy. Apunts. Medicina de l’Esport, 53(197), 19-27.