A patellar tendon rupture or tear can be one of the most painful knee injuries you can suffer. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I discuss the mechanism of tearing your patellar tendon as well as the signs and symptoms of the injury so you could see a doctor right away if you did in fact suffer one.

Michael asks:
Last week, we hiked on a mountain for beginners, and then we decided to go to a waterfall nearby. I jumped into the cliff. Unfortunately, my left knee bumped into a stone. It swells, but I can handle the pain. Psychologically, it’s killing me. I overthink a lot, but I think I may have ruptured my patellar tendon. What are signs that my patellar tendon ruptured?

A patellar tendon rupture involves tearing the tendon just below the kneecap, the tendon that connects the lower pole of the patella to the top and front of the tibia, or shin bone. Often this is a noncontact knee injury, much like an ACL tear. An athlete might land awkwardly from a jump and the knee gives way, tearing the patellar tendon. You could also tear the patellar tendon in a fall or some other traumatic injury.

The hallmark finding of a patellar tendon rupture is the inability to perform a straight leg raise. If you are lying on the ground, or on a sofa or bed, you will usually be unable to lift your leg off the surface. It isn’t the pain that keeps you from doing it. Instead, it’s the lack of a tendon to connect the bones, so your quads will fire, but they don’t lift the leg.

The patellar tendon is the tendon just below the patella, or kneecap

As I discuss in this video, other common signs and symptoms include significant pain and swelling and difficulty putting any weight on the leg, even in a brace or knee immobilizer. Tears of the patellar tendon don’t heal well on their own, so it can be a good idea to see a doctor soon after the injury to discuss surgical treatment.

Also read:
Return to sports after a patellar tendon tear
How quickly do you need surgery to repair a patellar tendon rupture?

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, on my website, on my podcast, or in social media. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

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