Symmetry Blog

Injury of the week - Patella Tendon Rupture

Symmetry Physio - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We are into the second week of Wimbledon. Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffers a terrible knee injury during the first week.

Injury of the week - Patella Tendon Rupture.

In an eventful week at Wimbledon where slipperiness of the grass courts was a recurring theme, US female tennis player Bethany Mattek-Sands was undoubtedly the most unfortunate victim. Bethanie was approaching the net where midcourt she suddenly decelerated; slipping abruptly and then fell to the ground in agonising pain. The incident resulted in a concurrent patella tendon rupture and patella dislocation.

What is a patella tendon?

The patella tendon is a strong cord of fibrous tissues that connects the kneecap to the upper aspect of the shinbone. The quadriceps tendon and musculature above the kneecap work together with the patella tendon to form a powerful structural unit. This structural unit allows the knee to bend and straighten which enables us to walk and run.

How can it happen and what are the symptoms?

A complete rupture will often present as a sudden tearing or popping sensation that occurs when the quadriceps contracts forcefully. This often occurs during a stumble or powerful take-off manoeuvre. There may be an indentation at the bottom of your kneecap and you may not be able to physically straighten your knee. Bethanie described both a popping sensation and her immediate fear of not being able to straighten her knee during her post-match press conference.

How is it treated?

In Bethanie's Case where there is a complete tear of the patella tendon, surgical intervention is almost always required to regain full knee function. The timing of her procedure is also important because early intervention may prevent the tendon from scarring in a shortened position.

After an operation, you can expect the recovery to take anywhere between 6-12 months. Intensive physiotherapy that includes a graded loading program is crucial throughout the rehabilitative period and residual disability is relatively common as a result of this injury. A good example of this is Hawthorn's Jaeger O'Meara who struggles for playing continuity on the footy field since rupturing his patella tendon in 2015.

It is essential that you have regular physiotherapy with any form of patella tendon injury. We wish Bethanie an uneventful and speedy return to the tennis court.

Thomas Colliver 

Symmetry Physiotherapy.

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