Q: I am a 22-year-old college student who plays basketball regularly. Last week, I landed awkwardly on a jump and felt a sharp pain in the front of my knee. I had to stop playing. My knee did not swell but I still have pain in the front of my knee, as well as weakness. Going up and down stairs is difficult. I never had a knee injury before and it really has not improved on its own. Any idea what I may have injured and any suggestions for treatment would be welcome.
A: It appears that you may have injured your patellar or quadriceps tendon. There are four large quadricep muscles in the thigh that converge to form a tendon that attaches to the top of the kneecap called the quadriceps tendon.
At the bottom of the kneecap, the patellar tendon bridges the gap from the kneecap to the shin. These tendons allow you to straighten your leg against gravity, as well as run and jump. A partial tear of the tendon may result in pain in the front of the knee and a feeling of weakness. A complete tear of either tendon will result in an inability to even walk. I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon who will examine your knee to determine if there is a tear or just a tendinitis.
The doctor may also order an MRI scan to help confirm the degree of tearing. Complete tears of either tendon will require surgery to return to good function. If there is a partial tear, the severity of the tear determines whether rehab or surgery will be necessary to recover the ability to return to sports.