Jumper’s knee

by Dr. Christopher Singh

At first glance, truck driving may not seem like a profession that would be prone to knee injuries. However, due to the physical demands of their job, many drivers develop painful and sometimes debilitating knee conditions.

A common knee injury sustained by drivers is called patellar tendonitis, which is better known as jumper’s knee. This is a condition that affects the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shin bone. The patella tendon functions to help your muscles straighten your knee like when you are walking up or down stairs or kicking a soccer ball.

Patellar tendonitis is caused by repeated stress and strain on the tendon. Eventually, the stress leads to small tears in the tendon itself. As more and more tears occur, inflammation and pain in the tendon start to appear. For truck drivers, the most common causes of this injury are climbing in and out of trucks, jumping off trailers and long hours operating the clutch and gas pedals. Other risk factors that may affect drivers include tight leg muscles, muscular imbalances and excess weight.

The first symptom of patellar tendonitis is usually pain just under the kneecap. Initially, the pain will only be present during physical activity. The pain is usually sharp in nature but disappears once the activity is stopped. As the condition worsens, the pain may become constant.

In most cases, the diagnosis of patellar tendonitis is determined based on the patient’s signs and symptoms as well as a physical exam. However, if it is still unclear, diagnostic testing such as X-rays ultrasound, and MRI may be necessary. It is important for your doctor to rule out other more serious knee conditions.

Once a diagnosis of patellar tendonitis is reached, your doctor will discuss possible treatment options. The good news is that most people respond favourably to conservative treatment and surgery is not usually required. The first mode of treatment is to rest and reduce the amount of strain on the knee.

Next, ice and anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce the swelling in the tendon. Massage and gentle stretching are also effective to reduce the pain and irritation. Finally, in the later stages of treatment your doctor may recommend strengthening exercises and body mechanic modification, all of which an agronomist, physical therapist or chiropractor can help you with. If all else fails and no significant improvement is observed after 10 to 12 months of conservative treatment, surgery may be considered. The goal of surgery is to repair any tears or remove severely damaged sections of the tendon.

Although you cannot completely prevent this condition, you can reduce your risk of developing it. Avoid activities that put excess strain on the patellar tendon such as jumping off of your trailer. And try to use proper mechanics when getting in and out of your cab, for instance the ‘three point technique.’ Lastly, try to maintain a healthy body weight and perform lower body stretches regularly. Patellar tendonitis is not a life-threatening injury, however, if left untreated, it could develop into a very painful and debilitating condition.

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  • What if the knee pain was caused by vibrations being transferred to the knees from the truck through the pedals? Surely just trying to stop the vibrations by using foam somehow would do the trick.