Patella tendon rupture

The patella tendon links the patella to the shin bone. A partial rupture of the tendon is often due to a jumping or explosive load on the tendon.

The patella tendon or ligament connects the patella to the anterior part of the tibia at a protrusion known as the tibial tuberosity. It serves as a lever for the quadriceps muscles. Take note that the quadriceps insert into the upper surface of the patella and if contracted, it pulls on the patella and its tendon straightens the joint.

Patella tendon rupture

There is evident swelling of the knee joint especially at the base of the knee over the tendon.

The tendon is susceptible to rupture among those who had a history of injury such as jumper’s knee or deterioration linked with normal aging. These injuries weaken the tendon and if the quadriceps contract strongly in which the muscle contracts as it lengthens such as landing from a jump. In such cases, the tendon might snap or break at the lower end of the patella.


  • Rupture of the patella tendon can cause intense pain and accompanied by a perceivable pop at the time of injury.
  • There is evident swelling of the knee joint especially at the base of the knee over the tendon.
  • There is difficulty or inability to place any weight on the joint or keep it in a straight position.

Management of patella tendon rupture

Initial care

The RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). The individual should rest and protect the joint from further injury.

An ice pack should be applied as soon as possible after injury. A barrier should be placed on the affected area before the pack is applied. The application should last be done for 10 minutes every hour during the initial 24-48 hours depending on the severity of the injury.

NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen is given to reduce the pain and swelling. If the injury is extremely painful or prevents the individual from walking, seek medical care.

Medical care

In case the patella tendon rupture is extensive, surgery is required to fix the damage which involves stitching of the torn tendon.

After surgery, a rehabilitation program is started that involves minimal or no weight bearing on the affected knee and the use of a knee brace to prevent it from bending. This is usually required for more than 6 weeks.

When the brace is taken out, exercises that focus on restoring full range of movement and strengthening of the quadriceps are started. The rehabilitation process from a patella tendon rupture is slow and might take 6-12 months before the individual can resume sports.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on patella tendon rupture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage joint injuries, register for a first aid and CPR course with Kelowna First Aid.