Under normal circumstances, the patellar tendon functions to allow your quadriceps muscles to stabilize and extend your knee joint. Without it even everyday tasks such as walking and climbing stairs are made impossible. A patellar tendon repair is performed with specialized sutures and when rehabilitated appropriately should allow you to return to a normal level of function as your repaired tendon is able to transfer the load generated by your quadriceps muscles again.
Phase one -
The first phase of your recovery will focus on managing your swelling and pain, and allowing the specialised sutures and repair to heal and strengthen. You will be provided with elbow crutches to help with balance and stability when weight bearing and walking. You will be asked to wear a knee brace when walking to prevent your knee from flexing to ensure excessive load does not get placed through the patellar tendon repair. You may also be asked to limit the amount of weight you place through your operated leg.
Over the initial 2-6 weeks after surgery, your physiotherapist will guide you to appropriately increase the range of motion in the brace, discard the brace and take full weight on your operated leg as your muscle strength and control allow. Regular icing and compression of the knee is encouraged at this stage to bring down swelling and bruising. Your physiotherapist will guide you through some initial activation exercises for your quadriceps and hamstrings which will help to support your knee and prevent excessive muscle wasting post-operatively.
Phase two -
The second phase of your recovery will focus on enabling you to be able to walk with a more normal gait pattern, increase your knee range of motion as quickly as possible and strengthen your hip and knee muscles, particularly your quadriceps. Regular stretching of the knee is encouraged to regain full range of motion by 12 weeks post-surgery.
Your physiotherapist will prescribe you some appropriate strengthening exercises. These exercises will involve resistance/ loading exercises for the quadriceps muscles to encourage the tendon repair to heal and quickly increase quadriceps strength and control to support the tendon repair. Weight-bearing exercises such as wall slides, squats and lunges may commence gradually to begin strengthening your operated leg muscles in weight-bearing positions.
Phase three - The third phase of your recovery will begin once you have enough strength and flexibility in your operated leg to start more complex movements and impact work. Typically, this phase will involve starting light impact work such as jogging on the treadmill and increasing the vigour of previous exercises such as squats, lunges and leg press. Your physiotherapist will guide you appropriately but under normal circumstances once the strength of your operated leg is equal to your non-operated leg, activity or sports specific rehabilitation exercises can be commenced. This may include progression to sprinting, jumping and rotational movements depending on the sport desired.
The Game Ready Ice Machine, electric muscle stimulator, AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, Hydro Physio aqua-jogger, 3D Gait Analysis, sports exercise equipment such as the Concept2 rower, plus Circle’s Return to Sport Assessment Service may help rehabilitation following a patellar tendon repair.