Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Patellar Tendon Tear

A patellar tendon tear is a serious injury that occurs when the tendon connecting the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia) is partially or completely torn. This tendon is crucial for straightening the knee and for activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

Common Symptoms

  • Severe Pain: Sudden and intense pain in the front of the knee.
  • Swelling: Rapid swelling around the knee.
  • Bruising: Bruising may develop around the knee.
  • Inability to Straighten the Knee: Difficulty or inability to extend the knee or straighten the leg.
  • Indentation: A visible gap or indentation just below the kneecap.
  • Patella Movement: The kneecap may move upward (high-riding patella) if the tendon is completely torn.

Cause & Anatomy

  • Overuse: Repetitive stress or overuse can lead to microtears, weakening the tendon.
  • Direct Trauma: A direct blow to the knee, such as a fall or collision.
  • Jumping or Landing: Sudden and forceful jumping or landing can cause a tear.
  • Degenerative Conditions: Conditions like tendinitis or chronic inflammation can weaken the tendon over time.

The patellar tendon connects the patella to the tibia and works with the quadriceps muscle to extend the knee. It is a strong and thick band of tissue essential for knee stability and function.


  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Assessment of symptoms, medical history, and physical examination of the knee.
  • X-rays: To check for patellar position and rule out bone fractures.
  • MRI: Provides detailed images to confirm the extent of the tear and assess soft tissue damage.
  • Ultrasound: Can visualize the tear and evaluate the integrity of the tendon.


  • Proper Warm-up: Ensuring adequate warm-up before engaging in physical activities.
  • Strength Training: Strengthening the quadriceps and other muscles around the knee.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Regular stretching to maintain flexibility in the knee and surrounding muscles.
  • Avoid Overuse: Gradually increasing activity levels to avoid overuse injuries.
  • Proper Technique: Using proper techniques during physical activities and sports.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Rest: Avoid activities that stress the knee.
  • Ice and Compression: To reduce pain and swelling.
  • Brace or Immobilizer: To support the knee and limit movement.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to restore strength and flexibility.

Surgical Treatments

  • Primary Repair: Suturing the torn tendon back together.
  • Tendon Graft: In cases where the tendon is severely damaged, a tendon graft may be used to repair the tendon.


Initial Phase:

  • Immobilization: Keeping the knee in a brace or immobilizer to allow healing.
  • Pain Management: Using medications and ice to manage pain and swelling.

Physical Therapy:

  • Range of Motion Exercises: Gradual exercises to restore knee movement.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Progressive strengthening of the quadriceps and surrounding muscles.
  • Functional Training: Exercises to restore normal knee function and movement patterns.

Return to Activity:

  • Gradual return to normal activities and sports, following the guidance of a physical therapist and physician.


How long does it take to recover from a patellar tendon tear?
Recovery time varies but typically ranges from 6 months to a year, depending on the severity of the tear and the treatment approach.

Can a partial patellar tendon tear heal without surgery?
Yes, partial tears can often heal with conservative treatment, including rest, bracing, and physical therapy.

What are the risks of not treating a patellar tendon tear?
Untreated tears can lead to chronic pain, instability, and loss of knee function, potentially causing long-term disability.

Can I return to sports after a patellar tendon tear?
Many individuals return to sports after proper treatment and rehabilitation, but it depends on the severity of the tear and the success of the rehabilitation program.

What is the difference between a patellar tendon tear and patellar tendinitis?
A patellar tendon tear is a rupture of the tendon, whereas patellar tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon due to overuse.

How can I prevent a patellar tendon tear from recurring?
Prevent recurrence by maintaining strong and flexible muscles around the knee, using proper techniques in sports, and avoiding sudden increases in physical activity.

Are there any complications associated with patellar tendon tear surgery?
Complications can include infection, stiffness, re-rupture, and complications related to anesthesia. Proper post-surgical care and rehabilitation are crucial to minimize risks.

What are the signs that I might need surgery for a patellar tendon tear?
Signs include a complete inability to straighten the knee, significant pain and swelling, and a visible gap or indentation below the kneecap. An MRI can confirm the extent of the tear.

Can patellar tendon tears affect both knees?
While it typically affects one knee, factors like overuse and underlying conditions can increase the risk for both knees.

What kind of brace is recommended after a patellar tendon tear?
A knee immobilizer or hinged knee brace is often recommended to provide stability and limit movement during the initial healing phase.

Patellar tendon tears require prompt and appropriate treatment to ensure the best possible outcome. Early diagnosis, followed by proper treatment and rehabilitation, is essential for restoring knee function and returning to normal activities. If you suspect a patellar tendon tear, seek medical attention immediately for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

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