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Pain below the kneecap, particularly when it comes on gradually and becomes worse following activity, can be a sign of patella tendonitis. The patella tendon connects the kneecap to the shinbone and is affected by movement of the quadriceps muscle in the thigh. Overuse of the tendon through running and jumping can cause severe pain and damage to the patella tendon.
One of the first symptoms of jumpers knee (more commonly known as patella tendonitis) is knee pain. The pain usually comes on gradually becoming worse throughout the day and is exacerbated by repetitive jumping and running. This is the reason why so many athletes rely on knee support products to minimise the effects of the jarring movements on the knee.
Many sufferers continue to exercise even after first experiencing knee pain, but this can cause severe damage to the tendon and should be avoided. Initially uncomfortable rather than painful, any signs of pain below the knee should be taken seriously in order to avoid more serious injury and possible tearing, which will take much longer to heal.
Patella tendinopathy results when small tears cause degeneration of the patella tendon. The tendon loses elasticity and is unable to function normally, causing knee pain and swelling in the area just below the kneecap. Often it is possible to see the thickened tendon which will appear much more pronounced on the damaged side.
It is quite unusual for the tendon to actually become inflamed and so anti-inflammatory drugs are of little help. Most sufferers are advised to use a knee support product in the form of a tendon strap which limits the load placed on the overworked tendon and can minimise the symptoms of the condition.
Swimming and low-impact exercises in water can be carried out without putting strain on the patella tendon, but all high-impact exercise should be discontinued while healing takes place. In severe cases it is possible to undergo an injection into the kneecap. More extreme damage may require surgery but this does not always guarantee a favourable outcome.
Never ignore knee pain as it could be a sign of tendon injury and continuing to exercise is almost certain to cause further problems. Prevention is always better than cure, so sports enthusiasts are advised to use knee support as a preventative measure where the knee is subjected to excess strain.