Patellar tendon and quadricep tendon tears are rare but serious injuries that happen to the knee.

The quadriceps muscle group includes four different muscles that run down the front of the thigh. These muscles are attached to the patella, or knee cap, by the quad tendon. The patellar tendon connects the other side of the patella with the shin bone. All together, this structure works to straighten the knee.

When one of these tendons is injured, it could tear partially or completely, and the rupture might occur close to the knee cap or in the middle of the tendon. Patellar tendon and quad tendon ruptures are more common in males 40 and older. We tend to see these injuries occur to athletes who have weakened their patellar and quad tendons over time through regular running or jumping sports like basketball.

Most of the time, both quad tendon and patellar tendon tears will occur from high impact in bad form. When a player lands from a jump, for instance, there’s high impact on the knee, as the quads make a quick eccentric contraction. This could cause a tear in either of these tendons. Impact to the anterior side of the knee from a fall can also injure the quad and patellar tendon.

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When an athlete tears their patellar or quad, they often feel the tear or pop as the injury occurs. Other symptoms immediately present following the injury, including acute knee pain and swelling. Lots of patients are unable to walk on a torn tendon, and those with a completely ruptured tendon won’t be able to straighten their knee on their own. The quadriceps muscle group becomes sensitive and may cramp.

For a lot of patients, the injury is serious enough that it’s an obvious diagnosis. But, in minor cases of patellar and quad tendon tears, careful diagnosis is more important than ever. This is an injury that must be treated correctly for what it is, or it can lead to disability. In severe cases with a complete rupture, athletes will need surgery. However, in our years of experience we have seen many athletes come through with partial tears that could heal with more conservative efforts. We commonly use innovative tools like NMES, hot and cold therapy, and shockwave therapy to treat the tear.

At MOTUS, our biggest goal is to help our patients learn safe, healthy movements that can protect them from injuries like this. Part of the recovery process for a patellar or quad tendon tear is addressing the source of the problem, whether the bad landing was a result of compensation for other pain, or weak muscles. We treat quad tendon and patellar tendon tears as part of the big picture, and help you improve the connection between your brain and your muscles for better movements.


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