What Is A Patellar Tendon Tear?

The patellar tendon connects the patella to the tibia, and this aids in keeping the legs straight. A patellar tendon tear usually requires a patellar tendon repair and can either be partial or complete tears. A partial tear does not destroy the tendon, whereas a complete tear causes detachment from the kneecap. When the tendon is completely detached from the kneecap, a person cannot straighten the leg.


The treatment can either be conservative or surgical, depending on each case. Usually, partial tears are treated conservatively, while complete tears require surgery. The non-surgical treatment includes physical therapy and immobilization. Physical therapy is performed after the pain and swelling subside to re-establish the range of movement and strength. Immobilization is usually recommended for 3 to 6 weeks which will help heal.


The doctor may advise surgery for some cases, especially with complete tears to restore the function and movement. The sooner the surgery is performed, the better the outcome. The surgery is performed under anesthesia, where the tendon is sutured with the top of the kneecap. Depending on the severity of the damaged tendon, the doctor may add more protection to the surgery site. After the surgery, the length of hospital stay depends on each patient’s health condition.

After the procedure

There are common associated risks and complications with any surgery, such as infection, bleeding, and complications from anesthesia. The loss of range of movements and frailty are the most common complications for patellar tendon repair. Also, the position of the kneecap after surgery is changed. The doctor would recommend conservative treatments such as rest, ice, and pain medications after the surgery. The stitches or staples are usually removed after about 2 weeks of surgery.


The full recovery time for patellar tendon repair can take from 6 months to 1 year, gradually adding exercises and physical therapy. From day 1 to day 14, conservative treatments, suture removal, mobilization with crutches, and minimal exercises are recommended. From 2-6 weeks, the legs should be capable of handling full body weight. From 6-12 weeks, one should be able to mobilize without crutches but continue wearing a brace. After 3 to 4 months, one can walk and stand without any aid and perform any activity.


A rehabilitation protocol is used for patellar tendon repair, but this differs based on the healthcare provider. The protocol has different phases, with each stage having a specific goal. The healthcare provider would walk through each phase based on the week to ensure the required goal is attained.