When Your Child Has Jumper’s Knee

Front view of knee joint showing patella, tibia, and inflamed patellar tendon.

Your child has been diagnosed with a condition called jumper’s knee. Jumper’s knee is an irritation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). Your child will have some pain. But the pain should go away with proper care.

What causes jumper’s knee?

Jumper’s knee results from the knee being overworked. The condition often occurs while playing sports such as basketball and volleyball. Children who do track and field are also at risk. The constant jumping and landing motions of these activities put stress on the knees. The patellar tendon then becomes inflamed.

What are the signs and symptoms of jumper’s knee?

  • Pain at the bottom of the kneecap

  • Swelling around the bottom of the kneecap

  • Increased pain when the knee is flexed (bent)

  • Pain with activity

How is jumper’s knee diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about your child’s health history and examine your child. During the exam, the doctor checks your child’s knee for tenderness. An imaging test, such as an X-ray, may also be done. Imaging tests show areas inside the body such as the bones. They give the doctor more information about your child’s injury.

How is jumper’s knee treated?

Your child’s doctor will talk with you about the best treatment plan for your child. As instructed, your child should:

  • Rest from jumping or running until symptoms go away, often 2 to 4 weeks.

  • Ice the knee 3 to 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Never put ice directly on your child's skin. Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas—or something similar—wrapped in a thin towel.

  • Take anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed.

  • Use crutches, as directed.

  • Wear a patellar tendon strap (strap used to support the knee) during exercise, if instructed.

  • Do exercises at home as instructed by the doctor. Your child may also be referred to a physical therapist (PT) for a supervised program of exercises. Your child’s physical therapist or healthcare provider may also ask your child to do exercises at home.

Long-term concerns

With treatment, the injury should heal without any problems. After healing, any pain or restriction of the knee joint should go away. However, not resting properly can result in a fracture and a longer period of being restricted from sports.