Patellar tendinopathy in athletes: current diagnostic and therapeutic recommendations

Sports Med. 2005;35(1):71-87. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200535010-00006.


Formerly known as 'jumper's knee', patellar tendinopathy gives rise to considerable functional deficit and disability in recreational as well as professional athletes. It can interfere with their performance, often perseveres throughout the sporting career and may be the primary cause to end it. The diagnosis of patellar tendinopathy is primarily a clinical one but new imaging techniques, such as Doppler ultrasonography, may provide additional diagnostic value. Current therapeutic protocols are characterised by wide variability ensuing from anecdotal experience rather than evidence. Moreover, numerous reports in recent years have shattered previous doctrines and dogmatic belief on tendon overuse. Histopathological and biochemical evidence has indicated that the underlying pathology of tendinopathy is not an inflammatory tendinitis but a degenerative tendinosis. Consequently, pain in chronic patellar tendinopathy is not inflammatory in nature, but its exact origin remains unexplained. In pursuit of pathology- and evidence-based management, conservative therapy should be shifted from anti-inflammatory strategies towards a complete rehabilitation with eccentric tendon strengthening as a key element. If conservative management fails, surgery is opted for. However, considering the heterogeneity of surgical procedures and the absence of randomised studies, no conclusive evidence can be drawn from the literature regarding the effectiveness of surgical treatment for patellar tendinopathy. Parallel with the improved knowledge on the pathophysiology and pain mechanisms in patellar tendinopathy, new treatment strategies are expected to emerge in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Patella / injuries*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Tendon Injuries* / diagnosis*
  • Tendon Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Tendon Injuries* / therapy*