A research team, led by Dr. Robert-Jan de Vos (sports physician) and Dr. Edwin Oei (musculoskeletal radiologist) and coordinated by Dr. Stephan Breda (resident radiology) at Erasmus MC, completed a randomised clinical trial for athletes with patellar tendinopathy.

This large project took more than 4 years to complete, and was funded by the American National Basketball Association (NBA) and GE Healthcare.

Patellar tendinopathy is a common chronic tendon injury that is characterized by load-related pain in the patellar tendon. As many as 45% of elite athletes in jumping sports like basketball and volleyball suffer from patellar tendinopathy. This often results in prolonged sport absence, which hampers an individual’s athletic performance and the health-related benefits of physical activity.

Eccentric exercise therapy (EET) has strong evidence of effectiveness for patellar tendinopathy and is also supported in medical guidelines. However, EET is pain-provoking and the therapeutic effects on pain and functional outcome are debated when applied during the competitive season. These limitations could be overcome by performing progressive tendon-loading exercises (PTLE) within the limits of acceptable pain.

Our aim was to compare the effectiveness of progressive tendon-loading exercises (PTLE) with eccentric exercise therapy (EET; usual care before the start of the project) in patients with patellar tendinopathy.