Patellar tendinitis is a common issue in volleyball because it is caused by overuse and repetition. Players are constantly spiking, blocking and doing other forceful jumping activities and this tends to aggravate the tendon. The tendon that is affected connects from the shinbone (tibia) to the kneecap (patella) and it is a major player in your ability to use your leg muscles effectively. This tendon helps you to jump up, run up a hill and kick a ball.
Signs and Symptoms of Patellar Tendinitis
The first symptom that occurs is pain and this is generally located where the tendon goes into the shinbone and up to the kneecap. This pain ranges greatly in severity and for some people it is just a constant ache, but for others is severe enough where it prevents them from being able to walk and play volleyball. Characteristics of this pain can include:
- At first, the pain may only occur after exercise or practice. It may also only occur when you begin playing volleyball or exercising.
- As the tendinitis gets worse, you may find that you are unable to keep up with the sport.
- In the more advanced stages, getting up from a chair or walking up the stairs can be difficult to impossible.
Treating Patellar Tendinitis
Most people will respond well to less invasive treatments, but since this can take some time to fully heal, it is important that you are patient and that you follow your doctor’s orders. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are generally sufficient to help alleviate your pain and this also helps to reduce some of the associated inflammation. Talk to your doctor about the proper dose because taking too much of these drugs can cause issues with your stomach. Make sure you ice at least a couple of times a day, especially after your workouts. You want to ice for at least 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
There are different therapy options that seek to reduce symptoms and promote healing. Stretching exercises help to lengthen the tendon-muscle unit and it can reduce spasms. Make sure to stretch properly and never bounce or else you can do more harm than good. Strengthening exercises help to protect the patellar tendon from strain, especially when you work to strengthen your thigh muscles. A patellar tendon strap helps to move some force away from the tendon to alleviate pain and allow the tendon to heal.
There are a few more invasive procedures that can help to promote healing and alleviate pain, including:
- Nitro Patches: These are the same patches used in patients with heart disease. They deliver a medicine that is thought to help spur the repair process in the tendon. The patches can take several months to work.
- Surgery: When this condition is severe and not responding to any other treatments there are some surgical procedures that may be helpful.
- Platelet-rich plasma injections: This works to help those who have long-term issues with the patellar tendon. It is still a very new treatment so it is unknown how helpful it will be for each individual patient.