What is the Recovery Time for a Patellar Tendon Rupture?

Patellar Tendon Rupture Recovery 

By: Andrew Godek, Physical Therapist/Certified Athletic Trainer

You are sitting in your doctor’s office after hurting your knee while playing basketball and he tells you that your have torn your patellar tendon ….. now what? The patellar tendon is a strong tendon that extends down from the thigh muscle (Quadricep) and attaches the knee cap (patella) to the shin bone (tibia). Its main function is to help straighten the knee. This tendon can be torn by a forceful contraction of the quadriceps while performing running or jumping activities. It also can be torn by falling directly on the knee. In both of these cases the patellar tendon can be partially torn or completely ruptured (torn fully). As with any injury, the severity greatly impacts the timetable for recovery. A partial tear can be treated with immobilization and physical therapy, but in more severe cases with a ruptured tendon, the best course of intervention is a surgical repair performed by an orthopedic surgeon.  The recovery time after a patellar tendon rupture will also vary based on the individual surgeons rehab protocol. 

Surgery for a Patellar Tendon Rupture

Dislocated PatellaImage of the Patella of the Knee

Surgery to repair the patellar tendon involves reattaching the tendon that was torn either suturing the two torn ends together or using a different structure to bridge the gap. Following surgery it is very important to limit how far the knee is bent to allow for healing. Gradually over time this will be increased to allow the new surgically repaired tendon to safely lengthen. Here are a few things to keep in mind withe the recovery time following a patellar tendon rupture:

  • No weight-bearing or limited weight bearing on your injured leg for up to 4-6 weeks
  • Wearing a long brace or knee immobilizer that keeps your leg straight for 6 weeks
  • Limited ability to bend your knee for up to 12 weeks
  • No running for 12-14 weeks depending on leg strength
  • Return to sports at about 6 months depending on leg strength

Not everyone that has this injury is an athlete and may not be looking to get back to sports activities. For those people not returning to sports activities, here are some functional things to think about.

  • If you injure your right leg you will not be able to drive for up to 6 weeks and possibly longer
  • For those people with more physically demanding jobs, you may be limited to returning to normal work tasks for 3-6 months
  • You may have residual stiffness and weakness in the injured leg compared to the uninjured side

Recovery from a patellar tendon rupture is a lengthy process following this surgery because of the time required for the tendon to heal. Patience and hard work will pay off during your road to recovery. Your rehab team from JOI will be with you each step of the way to ensure you properly recover and regain your strength and mobility.

To learn more about the anatomy of the knee, go to this video.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is very important following a dislocated patella.  It is very important to regain normal range of motion of the knee and to decrease the pain and swelling.  The swelling will cause the quad muscle to shut down and atrophy.  The vastus medialis muscle will need special strengthening exercises to make sure that he can stabilize the patella in the center of the knee.  Many times the vastus lateralis is too strong and well as the lateral structures of the knee and these may actually cause the subluxation or dislocation.  

If you need to see an Orthopaedic Knee Specialist, please call JOI-2000 or follow the link below.  

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