The knee is complex consisting of a hinge joint surrounded by tendons at the front, sides, and back. So is it any wonder we are prone to knee tendon injury? This blog explores knee tendon injuries which are common, and how to manage them.

How does a knee tendon injury happen? 

a volleyball player with jumpers knee

Most cases of knee tendon damage occur due to excessive activity. Generally, too much exercise without adequate rest leads to tendon overload. As a result, the tendon swells and loses its ability to function like a spring, causing pain. We call this process tendonitis.

Sometimes, sudden explosive activity causes stretching and tearing of knee tendons. This tear can be partial or full thickness.

In rare cases, knee tendons can injure from a direct blow leading to pain and swelling like tendonitis.

Common knee tendon injuries 

Tendon pain at the front of the knee includes patellar tendonitis, jumper’s knee, and quadriceps tendonitis. At the inside of the knee, we often see pes anserine bursitis. Finally, active people develop low hamstring tendonitis at the back of the knee, also called semimembranosus tendonitis.


man holding hand due to knee clicking

Usually, tendon pain presents as focal pin-point pain. The site of the pain depends on the tendon affected, e.g., pain from patellar tendonitis is felt below the knee cap, while quadriceps tendonitis presents above the knee cap. Generally, pain severity depends on exercise intensity; lower intensity means less pain, while higher intensity produces more severe, long-lasting pain.

In some cases, we see localised swelling around the swollen tendon. But symptoms such as generalised, swelling, giving way, or locking are not associated with tendon injuries and are more likely due to other knee problems such as a meniscal tear, osteoarthritis, or ligament damage.

Knee tendon injury diagnosis 

jumpers knee on ultrasound

First, we start with a thorough history and physical examination. Then, in most cases, we follow up an assessment with investigations such as ultrasound or MRI. Typically, we see tendon damage, such as collagen breakdown. Also, imaging looks at other knee structures to exclude other causes of knee pain.

It is essential to find the reasons for developing tendon pain. Often, we find people who have pushed themselves too much with their training. Usually, there has been a recent increase in training intensity, such as the introduction of interval or hill training. In addition, in some cases, certain conditions, such as menopause, obesity, and diabetes, increase the risk of tendonitis.


We suggest you see a tendon specialist to determine the best treatment for your tendon injury.

First, we start with exercise therapy. Strength training reduces pain from tendonitis by improving tendon structure and increasing muscle strength to shield the injured tendon.

Second, we use additional treatments such as GTN patches, shockwave therapy, and tendon injections to help with exercise.

Finally, tendon surgery should be avoided unless all other treatments have failed, as surgery results are not guaranteed, and risks are higher than other treatments.

Do you have patellar tendonitis? Dr Masci is performing a study on patellar tendonitis.

There is a lack of data on this condition. We need more data to determine which factors may be essential to predict outcomes and which treatments are effective. This study aims to follow patients with patellar tendonitis for 12 months to collect this data.

As part of the study, you will be followed closely with specific outcome scores to make sure you’re getting better.

If you have patellar tendonitis or jumpers knee, live in the UK, and want to be part of the study, please contact Dr Masci.

Final word from Sportdoctorlondon about tendon injuries.

Tendon injuries are common in the knee and are associated with pain and reduced function. You should see a tendon expert who can assess your tendon injury and decide on the best management plan specific to you and your demands.

Related conditions:

Dr. Masci is a specialist sport doctor in London. 

He specialises in muscle, tendon and joint injuries.