Sports, Pain &
Tendon Tear Q & A
The tendon is a strong cord made of fibrous tissue which connects bones to muscles. It is susceptible to micro tears that can make it difficult to function or perform basic daily activities, and a large tear can lead to disability that requires both physical therapy and surgery to successfully resolve.
Causes of Tendon Tear
Tendon tears are caused by either injury or disease. Activities such as jumping can damage one’s patellar tendon, especially when their knee is bent at a certain angle, and damage can also occur due to falls. Tendons can also become weakened due to tendinitis, which involves inflammation. This occurs most frequently in individuals who engage in activities that involve lots of sprinting, running or jumping and is sometimes called “jumper’s knee.” It is common in sports such as football, basketball and soccer.
Chronic disease that disrupts one’s flow of blood can also compromise tendons over time. Examples of such afflictions include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, renal failure, metabolic disease and infection. Many athletes resort to using steroids to gain a performance boost, and while they might see gains in the short term, over the long term these substances have been known to weaken both tendons and muscles.
Symptoms of Tendon Tear
Those who are suffering from tendon tear may display symptoms such as:
Treatment of Tendon Tear
To get a diagnosis, your physician will perform imaging tests, like magnetic resonances imaging and X-rays. These tools make it easier to visualize the tear and can show the level of tendon damage as well as its specific location. MRI in particular is indispensable as it can help doctors rule out other injuries which manifest similar symptoms.
Treatment comes in two forms, which is surgical and nonsurgical. Surgery is usually necessary for patients to reacquire complete tendon function, since the operation reconnects the tendon which has been torn to the bone. This is done by using sutures which are positioned inside the patient’s tendon and threaded via drill holes into their kneecap. The sutures will then be tied above the knee, which must be done carefully acquire the proper tension. Although this procedure can be done in an outpatient setting, the majority of patients choose to stay overnight once the procedure is complete.
Nonsurgical treatment is usually applied to small or partial tears. Patients will be required to wear a brace or immobilizer, which will keep the tendon straighten as it heals. Crutches might also be required so that the patient doesn’t place too much weight on the damaged knee. These devices must be used/worn for approximately three to six weeks. Physical therapy is used once the initial swelling and pain has subsided. Various exercises are used to regain motion and strength. One of the most common is straight leg lifts.