Ruptured tendon kneecap

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Ruptured tendon kneecap, also known as patellar tendon rupture refers to a tear in the tendon that connects the tibia (shin bone) to the kneecap. Patellar tendon ruptures are often caused due to physical trauma and conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis that weaken the tendons.

People with ruptured tendon kneecap often experience symptoms such as worsening knee pain while moving, running, jogging, climbing or jumping. People also have difficulty walking and show physical changes such as swelling and tenderness of the region over the tendon of the kneecap.

Important Information: this blog on ruptured tendon kneecap is for learning purposes only. To learn about serious bone, joint and muscle injuries and how to recognize and manage them enrol in workplace approved first aid classes.

Ruptured tendon kneecap

Risk factors

Risk factors associated with ruptured tendon kneecap include:

  • Patellar tendinitis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Corcosteroid injections to the knee
  • Sports that involve a lot of jumping


Common causes of ruptured tendon kneecap include:

  • Injury through sky diving and sports activities that require a lot of jumping
  • Certain condition may cause weakening an inflammation of the patellar tendon
    • Patellar tendinitis
    • Arthritis
    • Regular use of corticosteroid medication
    • Hyperparathyroidism
    • Diabetes
    • Osgood-Schlatter disease
    • Renal failure
    • Tuberculosis

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ruptured tendon kneecap include:

  • Knee pain – worsens with walking or movement of the knee
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Stiffness of the knee
  • Tenderness of the knee
  • A mild leg swelling (unilateral) – usually below the kneecap
  • Inability to move the leg or straighten it at the knee
  • Inability to walk or difficulty walking


Complications associated with ruptured tendon kneecap include:

  • Patellar tendinitis
  • Inability to completely bend the knee
  • Unilateral weakness of the leg – loss of muscle strength
  • Recurrent ruptured tendon kneecap injuries


Usually surgery is required to treat patellar tendon ruptures. Treatment also includes plenty of rest, elevation, cold compresses, crutches, physical therapy, knee splint and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease pain.

  • Get plenty of rest – use crutches or a walker to support movement
  • Apply cold compresses on the affected kneecap for 20 minutes, 2-3 times a day
  • Keep the affected leg elevated above heart level, if practical
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in order to reduce pain. NSAIDs include ibuprofen, ketoprufen and naproxen
  • Take narcotic pain medication in order to reduce moderate to severe pain of the kneecap. Take narcotic pain medication for a short period of time only

Surgery, knee immobilizers and physical therapy will be required in order to treat ruptured tendon kneecap.


The following preventative steps will reduce the risk of ruptured tendon kneecap:

  • Avoid jumping frequently, especially from tall heights
  • Follow a warm-up exercise technique before every exercise, this may include regular patellar tendon stretches
  • Perform stretches after exercise as well

 Learn More

To learn more about severe muscle, joint and bone injuries sign up for a workplace approved course today (register here).

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