You don't have to actually jump to suffer from jumper's knee—though it certainly puts you at risk. As the name suggests, jumper's knee affects people who do sports or workouts that involve a lot of jumping. Volleyball and basketball players are two of the most at-risk groups. The constant stress from landing after a jump is what wears the tendon down. When you land, your knees take hundreds of pounds of force, putting a lot of strain on the small tendon.
The technical term for jumper's knee is patellar tendonitis, and it refers to inflammation of the tendon that goes over your knee. Deal with it early, and you can get back to working out regularly.
Cause of Jumper's Knee
If you land particularly hard your tendon can get small tears that cause it to swell up and become painful. This inflammation of the tendon is called tendonitis. As soon as you feel the pain in your knee you should stop exercising and take some time to rest. At this point you should also start stretching.
Your quads directly pull on your patellar tendon. You can get them to relax by stretching them. There's also evidence that stretching the calf and hamstring muscles can help with jumper's knee, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Physiotherapy.
For each stretch, pull the muscle until you feel tension and slight discomfort, but stop if you feel pain. You don't want to make the injury worse by stretching too aggressively. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
Kneeling Calf Stretch
Focus on stretching your calf muscles to make your ankle more mobile and take stress off of your knees.
How to: Kneel on a pad or soft surface with one knee. Take your other foot and plant it in front of you. Both of your knees should be bent at 90 degrees. Put as much weight on your front foot as possible and lean forward, stretching your front calf. Try to push your front knee beyond the knees of your front foot without your heel coming off of the ground.
Use this yoga pose to stretch out your calves and hamstrings at the same time, killing two birds with one stone.
How to: Get into a push-up position. Use your arms to push your body back. At the same time, stick your butt up in the air and look down at the ground. Keep your spine flat and knees straight. Try to push your heels down to the ground to stretch your calves. Push your chest toward your knees to stretch your hamstrings more.
Standing Quad Stretch
Stretch out your quad with this simple stretch.
How to: Stand next to a wall or another sturdy object that you can grab for balance. Put one hand on the wall and kick your opposite foot up toward your butt. Grab the front of your shin with your free hand. Pull your heel in toward your butt and hold it.
Side-Lying Quad Stretch
If you're having trouble with the standing quad stretch, try this alternative that doesn't involve any balance.
How to: Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Your knees should be straight. Bend your top leg and bring your foot toward your butt. Reach down with your top arm and grab the front of your shin. Pull your heel in toward your butt. You can increase the stretch by reaching back with your knee.
Stretch your hamstrings one at a time with this exercise.
How to: Sit on the ground and extend both legs straight out in front of you. Bend on leg and lean your knee to the side. Put the bottom of your foot on the inside of the knee that's straight. Reach with both hands toward the toe of the straight leg. Once you're done, switch legs and stretch the other leg.