How To Use The Foam Roller For Patellar Tendonitis

What Is Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis, commonly referred to as “Jumper’s Knee” and also know as “patellar tendinopathy”, is a very common overuse lower limb injury. So common in fact, that some jumping sports have an incidence rate upwards of 45% (Lian et al., 2005). Worse than this, patellar tendonitis forces the retirement up to 53% of athletes (van Ark et al, 2011)! Therefore, high quality information to effectively rehabilitate this condition is highly needed!

Patellar tendonitis, is not an inflammatory condition, but rather a continuum of pathology that results from degeneration of the patellar tendon of the knee. The damage of the tendon frequently occurs in response to overuse (known as repeated bouts of microtrauma)

So… what happens?

Essentially, what occurs is that repeated forceful extension of the knee (such as in jumping and running), causes the quadriceps and patellar tendon to contract. These activities cause “micro-tears” and as this continues the damage to the knee becomes painful.

But, obviously not everybody that runs and jumps develops patellar tendonitis. It is believed that this complex condition has multiple contributing factors, some of which are discussed below…

Anatomy and Muscular Contributions to Patellar Tendonitis

There has been much research on the contributing muscles to the development of patellar tendonitis. To date research has shown those with patellar tendonitis have:

  • Reduced quadriceps flexibility (van der Worp et al., 2011)
  • Reduced hamstring flexibility (van der Worp et al., 2011)
  • Reduced dorsiflexion range of motion (think gastrocnemius and soleus) (Malliaris et al., 2006)

So, what can be done about this condition?

Foam Roller Exercises for Patellar Tendonitis

The most appropriate exercises are those that target the myofascial structures of the:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Calf muscles

The videos below displays all of these components:



Calf Muscles

What Size Will Be Most Useful?

Given that you are going to cover a medium to large sized  area and i.e. the quadriceps and hamstrings, the sizes for this condition would be:

Should I Do Anything Else For Patellar Tendonitis?

Yes! Unfortunately, the foam roller is only one component of the successful rehabilitation of patellar tendonitis. To fully resolve this complex problem you should also undertake:

  • Regular Quadriceps strengthening – focussing on eccentric work (see the video below)
  • Regular quadriceps, hamstring and calf stretching
  • Appropriate load management i.e. get enough rest and do not do too much too quickly!
  • Be guided by your physiotherapist – who can take you through all of this including a full rehabilitation program

Eccentric Strength Exercises For Patellar Tendonitis

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Lian OB, Engebretsen L, Bahr R. Prevalence of jumper’s knee among elite athletes from different sports: a cross-sectional study. Am J Sports Med 2005;33:561–7.

Van Ark, Mathijas. Zwerver, J. van den Akker-Scheek, I. (2011) Injection treatments for patellar tendinopathy. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 45: 1068-1076.

van der Worp H, van Ark M, Roerink S et al. Risk factors for patellar tendinopathy: a systematic review of the literature. Br J Sports Med 2011 45: 446-452Malliaris P, Cook JL, Kent P. Reduced ankle dorsiflexion range may increase the risk of patellar tendon injury among volleyball players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 2006;9(4):304-309

Photo CreditWikiCommons


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