In my practice, I commonly treat knee injuries in professional truck drivers. In fact, I would say knee injuries are second only to lower back injuries among drivers. By far, the most common acute knee injury I see in my clinic is patellar tendonitis, better known as jumper’s knee. As you may have guessed, this type of knee injury is often seen in individuals who jump frequently.
Patellar tendonitis is simply an inflammation of the tendon that connects your knee cap to your lower leg bone. This tendon works in conjunction with your thigh muscles to extend or straighten your knee in movements such as kicking, jumping and running.
Although jumper’s knee is most common in athletes who participate in sports that require frequent jumping, anyone can develop it.
For example, I tend to see a lot of cases of this type of injury on the clutch leg of city drivers, due to the repetitive nature of the job and frequent clutch applications. Constantly pressing the clutch in city traffic can be very strenuous on the patellar tendon.
To add to this, flatbedders are at risk of jumper’s knee due to their constant climbing up onto the deck of the trailer. In addition, I always advise my patients to avoid jumping off the back of a trailer, as this too can lead to jumper’s knee. Another risk factor is having tight leg muscles, which is also common in truck drivers due to long hours of sitting.
Patellar tendonitis is essentially a repetitive strain or overuse injury. The constant or repeated stress causes micro tears in the tendon. As your body attempts to repair the tears, it creates inflammation, which in turn causes pain.
The most common symptom of jumper’s knee is pain just under the knee cap, which is usually aggravated by intense physical activity. Eventually, as the injury worsens, pain will be experienced with daily movements such as stair climbing or rising from a seated position.
If you suspect that you have jumper’s knee, it is important to seek medical attention, as ignoring the pain can lead to a more severe injury.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose jumper’s knee by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination. If necessary, your doctor may recommend diagnostic imaging tests such as an ultrasound, X-ray and/or MRI to better visualize the injury site.
Once a definitive diagnosis of jumper’s knee is reached, your doctor will be able to recommend the appropriate course of treatment. In most cases, medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen are prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy may be recommended as well. Therapy usually includes stretching and strengthening exercises.
Your physical therapist may also recommend a patellar tendon strap, which relieves the tension of the patella tendon during physical activity.
If all conservative treatments are unsuccessful, corticosteroid injection or even surgery may be necessary.
As I always say, prevention is the best treatment. For my patients who are professional truck drivers I have three tips for how to prevent jumper’s knee: If possible, take breaks and get out of the truck every two to three hours. Even if you can only get out and walk around your truck for five minutes, it will help immensely.
Before you climb onto your trailer, do a short warm-up consisting of walking around your truck for five minutes as well as gentle leg stretches. Finally, do not jump off your trailer!
Keep these simple prevention tips in mind and your knees will thank you for it.
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024