Patellar tendinopathy (PT) is a leading cause of morbidity in jump-landing athletes. Landing mechanics are identified as a factor associated with PT and/or patellar tendon abnormality. This study aimed to identify key jump-landing variables associated with PT. Thirty-six junior elite basketball players (men n = 18, women n = 18) were recruited from a Basketball Australia development camp. Three-dimensional (3D) kinematic and ground reaction force (GRF) data during a stop-jump task were collected as well as ultrasound scans of the patellar tendons and recall history of training load data. Mixed-model factorial analyses of variance were used to determine any significant between-group differences. Of the 23 participants included for statistical analyses, 11 had normal bilateral patellar tendons (controls) and eight reported PT (currently symptomatic); however, the four participants categorized as asymptomatic with patellar tendon abnormality on diagnostic imaging were excluded from statistical analyses due to their small sample size. Athletes with PT displayed a similar knee flexion angle at initial foot-ground contact (IC) and hip extension strategy during a stop-jump horizontal landing. Despite a similar kinematic technique, athletes with PT utilized a strategy of a longer stance duration phase from IC to peak force. This strategy did not lead to those athletes with PT decreasing their peak vertical GRF nor patellar tendon force during landing but enabled these athletes to land with a lower rate of loading (control 59.2 +/- 39.3 vs. PT 29.4 +/- 33.7 BW.s-1). Athletes with PT still reported significantly reduced training volume (control 4.9 +/- 1.8 vs PT 1.8 +/- 1.1 sessions/wk; total training time/wk control 2.4 +/- 1.0 vs PT 1.4 +/- 1.1 h/wk).
The hallmark features of patellar tendinopathy are (1) pain localized to the inferior pole of the patella and (2) load-related pain that increases with the demand on the knee extensors, notably in activities that store and release energy in the patellar tendon. While imaging may assist in differential diagnosis, the diagnosis of patellar tendinopathy remains clinical, as asymptomatic tendon pathology may exist in people who have pain from other anterior knee sources. A thorough examination is required to diagnose patellar tendinopathy and contributing factors. Management of patellar tendinopathy should focus on progressively developing load tolerance of the tendon, the musculoskeletal unit, and the kinetic chain, as well as addressing key biomechanical and other risk factors. Rehabilitation can be slow and sometimes frustrating. This review aims to assist clinicians with key concepts related to examination, diagnosis, and management of patellar tendinopathy. Difficult clinical presentations (eg, highly irritable tendon, systemic comorbidities) as well as common pitfalls, such as unrealistic rehabilitation time frames and overreliance on passive treatments, are also discussed.