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Teen Runner: Runner's Knee

We are continuing our series on teen and young runners this week with a focus on runner’s knee! This condition should be separated from a classic patellofemoral pain syndrome so that we may understand the subtle differences:

- In patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), pain can present anywhere along the front or sides of the knee and is not always point-specific.

- In runner’s knee (and for our purposes AKA Jumper’s Knee), the pain is felt right on the bottom of patella and/or the patellar tendon as shown in this picture:

Runner’s knee often presents as sharp during activity, can warm up and become less irritating, but will become tight and painful following activity. You can usually press right on the bottom of the kneecap or tendon and feel a more specific point of pain.

Why does this condition happen?

This injury often accompanies a significant increase in mileage or intensity (think speed work) that the runner is not quite ready for. This can happen at the beginning of a season or when attempting to peak for important races. In our teen athletes in particular, this can also present alongside growth spurts since the quads can become quite tight and limited during these phases. This increased tightness and pulling can then cause increased strain and pulling on the patella and tendon.

Could it be something more serious?

As we have discussed previously, we always want to be wary of stress fractures occurring in our growing athletes. A stress fracture can present both at the inferior pole of the patella (bottom) or at the tibial tuberosity (top of shin where the tendon attaches). A stress injury is typically one that is progressively worsening without getting any better and can hurt at rest or in the night. It is important to enlist the help of a PT or orthopedist if these symptoms are present and it is not improving. Tendon tears are much less common in this area but do happen occasionally with more traumatic injuries.

What can I do to fix it?

This is the all-important question! In order to know how to fix this we must narrow down the potential causes. If increased milage or intensity is to blame, decreasing the volume (but don’t stop running!) can be quite helpful alongside strengthening. If growth spurts seem to be a factor, making sure that the quadriceps and lower legs are stretched and strong goes a very long way. It is also important to consult a physical therapist when this is present to maximize your potential for recovery and getting back to racing. This condition can be caused by weakness at the foot/ankle, knee, hip, or core!

Are you dealing with some patella pain that keeps you from running? Give us a call or email today to get it fixed!

Thanks for reading,



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