Patella Tendon Rupture

Patella Tendon Rupture

Your patellar tendon works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to straighten your leg. Your patellar tendon is located below the kneecap, connecting the patella to the tibia or shin bone. During movement, this tendon and the quadriceps tendon work together to allow us to extend the leg and straighten the limb. In addition, the patellar tendon keeps the kneecap in place during activity to protect it from injury.



A rupture occurs when the patellar tendon experiences a tear, which can either be partial or complete. Most tears do not go through the entire tendon, completely disconnecting it from the patella. However, complete tears are possible, when the tendon is separated from the kneecap. With a complete rupture, you will not be able to straighten your knee at all.  

Anyone can potentially injure or rupture their patellar tendon, tears are more common in middle-aged people who play running or jumping sports.


Patella Tendon Rupture Causes

  • Injury or Trauma: A direct impact to the front of the knee from a fall or another blow is a common cause of a tear. A fall from a significant height or even a car accident can be a cause of this trauma.
  • Jumping: Tears are common when the knee is bent and the foot is planted, like it would be while jumping or landing from a jump.
  • Patellar Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendon weakens the tendon and can even cause small tears. This condition is common in people who take part in running or jumping activities frequently.
  • Chronic Disease: Some chronic diseases that disrupt blood supply can weaken your tendons. Some of these include chronic renal failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and metabolic disease.

Athletes that participate in some sports are more likely to suffer from this injury. Sports that involve a lot of jumping are likely to lead to overuse injuries which can weaken the tendon over time. 


Patella Tendon Rupture Symptoms 

When you experience a rupture, there is generally a tearing or popping sensation followed by pain and swelling. The “pop” you feel might even be audible to other people. You might also notice an indentation at the bottom of your kneecap from where the tendon tore. You may see bruising and experience tenderness and cramping as well. Since the tendon attaches the kneecap to the shin, you might notice that the kneecap is not in its normal position after a tear. It may be much higher than normal because the quadriceps tendon is pulling the kneecap towards the thigh. Difficulty walking is common, but most patients will notice significant instability and severe pain when they attempt to walk on it.


Patella Tendon Rupture Treatment

Your treatment options depend on a number of factors with the main factors being the type and size of tear you have. Your activity level and age will also be factors in determining the proper treatment.

Very small, partial tears typically respond well to nonsurgical treatment. Immobilization and physical therapy will likely be the nonsurgical treatment options your doctor gives you. They might recommend you wear a knee immobilizer or brace to help keep your knee straight while it heals. Meanwhile, physical therapy exercises can be used to restore strength and range of motion in the knee.

Nonsurgical treatment may work for small tears, but most people who experience a patellar tendon rupture will require surgery to regain their function. Surgery for a tear reattaches the tendon to the kneecap. Finding the severed ends of the tendon and sewing them back together with sutures is required. If the rupture has separated the tendon completely from the patella, the surgeon will have to drill small holes into the patella. This forms a new anchor site where the sutures will hold the tendon back in place.


Repairing a Patella Tendon Rupture at OAR

Don’t wait to contact us at OAR if you suspect you have experienced a patella tendon rupture. Especially in those who need surgery, the earlier the surgery can be done, the better the repair will be. 

Contact us today!