A typical quadriceps tendon repair with suture to the patella (kneecap) is illustrated. Drawing by Michelle Segura
Tony Parker’s injury shines spotlight on tendon health and exercise basics
Landing, rather than jumping, is usually what causes a quadriceps tendon rupture like that suffered by the Spurs’ Tony Parker in the NBA playoffs, said John Green, M.D., professor of orthopaedics at The University of Texas Health Science Center, now called UT Health San Antonio.
The quadriceps muscles are on the front of the thigh. The quadriceps tendon, which is a strong cord of tissue, connects the quadriceps muscle to the kneecap, enabling extension power. With time and use the tendon can be damaged, potentially resulting in a tear of the cord.
While point guard Parker is a highly conditioned athlete, it’s “weekend warriors” who are most at risk for this type of injury, especially if they don’t take some basic precautions.
“The best way to prevent a quadriceps tendon rupture is to participate in regular activity instead of intermittent activity,” said Dr. Green, a sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon with UT Health. “You get into trouble when you haven’t played basketball in three months, for example, and your friends ask you to come out and play. That’s riskier than if you played twice a week.”
Regular exercise and stretching are good ways to keep tendons healthy. “Stretch, warm up and advance your exercises slowly,” Dr. Green said. “Increase the amount of exercise and the intensity of exercise gradually. It’s also good to include cross-training. Participating in different types of exercise is helpful, because you are using different tendons and muscles.”
These principles help protect any tendon, including the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone, and the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. The Achilles is the most common lower-extremity tendon to rupture, Dr. Green said.
Dr. Green directs a sports medicine fellowship program in the Department of Orthopaedics at UT Health San Antonio. It is one of the older and more-established sports medicine fellowships in the country.
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