Patellar tendonitis

Are you a sportsperson and do you have pain in the lower area of the kneecap? Then it could be patellar tendonitis. What’s known as runner’s knee is irritation of the patellar tendon attachment and occurs with chronic excessive strain. It often affects people who regularly practice jump-intensive sports. Find out how you can contribute to a quick recovery yourself once the doctor has made the diagnosis.

Patellar tendonitis

What is the patella tip syndrome and how does it develop?

Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee) develops when the patellar tendon is irritated by unusual or severe tensile stress. Male sportspeople between the ages of 20 and 40 who train in a jump-intensive sport (such as basketball, volleyball) several times a week are often affected. Activities with lots of stop-and-go movements (such as tennis) and quick changes of direction (such as football) can also lead to patellar tendonitis.

Patellar tendonitis is also widespread among runners, which is why it also called jumper's knee or runner's knee1.

The pain is felt around the tip of the kneecap.

The following synonyms are used for patellar tendonitis:


  • Patellar tendinopathy
  • Patella tip syndrome
  • Runner's knee
  • Jumper's knee

Risk factors and causes of runner’s knee


  • Sports that involve intensive jumping – volleyball, basketball, some disciplines in light athletics such as long jump or high jump
  • Jogging and running marathons
  • Sports with rapid changes of direction – football, handball
  • Sports with abrupt stop-and-go movements – tennis, squash, badminton

External factors

  • Unsuitable footwear
  • Wrong sporting techniques
  • Excessively hard surfaces, for example asphalt
  • Excessively intensive training sessions
  • Unusual stress, for example. when learning a new sport or when training is started too enthusiastically and the knee is subjected to extreme forces.

Anatomical factors

  • The elasticity of the tendons diminishes with increasing age
  • Malalignment of the knee and foot deformities
  • Shortened tendons or muscles
  • Congenital ligamentous weakness (lax ligaments)

The various degrees of severity of the patella tip syndrome

Doctors do not normally divide the patella tip syndrome into different stages. This four-part classification helps patients understand the clinical picture better.2

The various degrees of severity of the patellar tendinopathy
  • Initially, the pain is usually only felt after sports.
  • In the further course, the patient develops "start-up" pain and feels pain during exercise, or even during everyday activities such as climbing stairs or after sitting for long periods.

The persistent character of the symptoms is typical. It is often a chronic clinical picture that persists for many months or even years. Phases with relatively little pain are repeatedly followed by phases when pain develops again after exercise. Patellar tendinopathy can affect both knees, this occurs in 20 to 30 percent of patients.

Treatment of runner’s knee: What helps in patellar tendonitis?

Patellar tendinopathy is usually treated conservatively, i.e. without an operation. Surgical intervention is only needed if the patellar ligament actually ruptures. The following methods relieve pain and can stop progression of patellar tendinopathy.

Therapy-accompanying exercises

Special exercises strengthen the muscles and increase mobility. They can also boost the healing process when carried out regularly. A doctor can prescribe physiotherapy. Depending on the findings, ultrasound treatment, electrotherapy (TENS), transverse friction (a special form of massage of the affected muscle and tendon fibres), shockwave therapy or manual therapy may be advisable as add-ons.


Regular stretching of the muscles over the front of the thigh reduces the tension that acts on the kneecap.


Special medical supports stabilise the knee joint. Knee supports with a strap system, such as medi's Genumedi PSS, are particularly suitable for a specific reduction of the peak pressure and tension forces that act on the patellar ligament.


Mild cold treatments with cold packs relieve pain (refrigerator temperatures of about 7°).


A heat pad, a hot water bottle or a massage with a warm towel roll (towel immersed in warm water) promote the circulation around the tendon insertion.


If necessary, patients may take an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or diclofenac for a week or two. But always ask the doctor treating you first.


Anti-inflammatory creams or ointments can be massaged into the affected site several times a day. This promotes recovery.


Orthopaedic insoles (for example, igli Allround) spread the pressure over the whole tread surface area at every step. They support the arch of the foot and correct the individual position of the foot.


Massages ease muscular tension and relieve pain. Experienced physiotherapists can relax the muscles with just a few massage strokes and increase the circulation.

Get fit again faster with special exercises for patellar tendinopathy

Certain exercises can help to alleviate your symptoms. The exercises aim to improve muscular knee stability, relieve the patellar tendon and promote knee mobility.

Exercises for patellar tendonitis

Information material for download:

The orthoses from medi for patellar tendonitis

medi has developed the knee orthosis Genumedi PSS for conservative therapy of patellar tendinopathy. It combines the tried-and-tested properties of a support with the additional benefit of a patellar support strap: the support safely and reliably guides and stabilises the knee joint and relieves tension on the insertions of the patellar ligament.

Click here for more information about medi's Genumedi PSS knee orthosis.


Show sources

1 The term "runner's knee" is often also used as a synonym for the iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) or iliotibial tract friction syndrome. ITBS is considered the most common cause of pain over the outside of the knee. It occurs predominantly in long distance runners. The iliotibial tract is a fibrous band. It runs from the anterior superior iliac spine on the front of the pelvis over the hip joint and the knee joint to the outer border of the tibia. Due to the constant flexion and extension of the knee joint when running, the tract rubs against the epicondyle of the thigh – like a rope over the edge of a rock – and this irritates the fibrous band and thus leads to ITBS.

2 Roels et al., 1978

3 Eccentric training means loading a muscle or a tendon by slowing down a weight or a resistance.

Purdam CR et al. Br J Sports Med 2004;38(4):395-397.

Jonsson P, Alfredson H. Br J Sports Med 2005;39(11):847-850

Visnes H, Bahr R. Br J Sports Med 2007;41(4):217-223

Zwerver J et al. Br J Sports Med 2007;41(4):264-268.

Health personnel will make the diagnosis and can prescribe medical aids, e.g. from medi if necessary.

Your medical retailer will fit them individually for you.