Treating a Tear of the Quadriceps Tendon

The quadriceps tendon attaches the group of strong muscles in the front of the thigh (the quadriceps) to the shinbone (the tibia). Inflammation of this tendon is known as jumper's knee. Jumper's knee is common in athletes who play sports that involve jumping and stop-and-go running. Treatment is fairly simple, and the outcomes are generally good.

In rare cases, the quadriceps tendon actually tears. This is not such a simple injury. When it happens, the injured person feels an intense tearing in front of the knee. Patients generally can't straighten the knee fully and have problems walking up hills and ramps. Swelling from the injury can make diagnosis a bit tricky. Surgery is most often needed.

These authors detail the anatomy, diagnosis, treatment, and possible complications of a quadriceps tendon tear. This article would be useful to anyone who wants an overview of the current medical thinking and treatment possibilities for this condition. Among the highlights of the authors' findings:

  • Quadriceps tendon tears usually happen after age 40. The changes of aging can weaken the tendon, making it more likely to tear.
  • Tears sometimes happen because other medical conditions have weakened the tendon. These conditions include diabetes, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and obesity. Steroid use also makes tears more likely.
  • Imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasound, are most often necessary to help diagnose the tear and figure out how best to treat it.
  • Incomplete tears are usually managed without surgery.
  • Complete tears require surgery. The research is unclear on the best timing for surgery. The author recommends doing it as soon as possible, preferably within the first few days after the injury. Some research suggests that doing surgery later leads to worse results.
  • There are several surgical techniques that seem to work well for a torn quadriceps tendon. The author describes the general technique and rehabilitation.

    The article also outlines possible complications after surgery and the symptoms and treatment of jumper's knee.

  • Reference: 

    Doran I. Ilan, MD, et al. Quadriceps Tendon Rupture. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. May/June 2003. Vol. 11. No. 3. Pp. 192-200.

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