Patellar ligament pain, also known as patellar tendon pain, can be caused by a variety of different factors. The pain is often the result of degeneration of the tendon, which is a condition known as tendinosis. Having short quadriceps muscles is thought to be one of the most common causes, because it can cause extra pressure on the tendon. Weak quadriceps also may contribute to patellar ligament pain.
The patellar ligament is found beneath the kneecap, which also is known as the patellar. It originates on the bottom edge of the patellar and runs a short way down before attaching to the top of the shin bone. Patellar ligament pain is a very common problem among athletes. Runners and jumpers are especially likely to suffer from the condition, which is why it is informally known as jumper’s knee. This is because the patellar ligament is put under a lot of strain when running, jumping or changing direction quickly.
It was once thought that inflammation in the tendon was the most common cause of patellar ligament pain. In the early 21st century, however, many researchers have come to the conclusion that inflammation is not the main reason for pain in the patellar tendon. Instead, it is thought that degeneration of the tissue in the tendon is the major cause of pain. This can occur with little or no inflammation in the tendon. While this type of pain is often referred to as patella tendinitis, its correct name is patellar tendinosis, which signifies a degeneration of tissue rather than inflammation.
There are many theories as to what causes degeneration in the tendon and why this results in patellar ligament pain. One of the most common potential causes is tight quadriceps muscles. If the quadriceps muscles are shortened — a common problem among people who play a lot of sports — then the muscles can pull the patellar higher than it should be. This can result in excessive load placed through the tendon and also may cause it to rub against the bone beneath it.
Other potential causes of patellar ligament pain include weak quadriceps muscles, especially if the hamstring muscles are much stronger, and overuse. Even problems such as excessive mobility in the lumbar spine may contribute to pain in the patellar ligament. There is such a wide range of potential causes that it is essential for the problem to be treated by a trained professional.