Patellar Tendon Tear Treatment – Exercises, FAQs & Case

Table of Content:

Patellar Tendon Tear/Rupture FAQs:

How long does it take to recover from a  patellar tendon tear?

It will take 3 months to walk normally, 6 months to return to running and 9 months before you can return to sport/practice from a torn patellar tendon.

Is a patella tendon tear painful?

Yes, patella tendon tear can be very painful as the tear is trauma to the knee. Swelling and bruising come in very quickly in the knee area which can cause the pain to get worse.

What does a torn patellar tendon look like?

You will notice the knee cap has shifted up towards the thigh from its normal resting position at the knee joint. If the tear is partial then you may see a soft spot where the tendon should be below the knee cap (patella), there is usually a lot of swelling and bruising too.

Is a rupture worse than a tear?

Full rupture is worse than a tear. Rupture means a complete tear of the tendon and will require more work in the surgery to repair and a longer rehabilitation. Tear has some hope of scarring over and will require less repair in surgery and you can get back to normal faster than a rupture.

Can you walk with a torn patella tendon?

Yes you can walk with a torn patellar tendon because parts of the tendon are still connected, however, you would not be able to walk with a ruptured patellar tendon as there’s nothing holding your knee from bending when you put weight on the leg.

Does a torn patellar tendon grow back?

No it does not, but the the tear can scar over giving you enough stability in the knee to return to normal everyday activities.

Patellar Tendon Tear Injury Background:

In this case the patient was playing soccer when he suffered a patellar tendon rupture on a high speed cut. He started his physical therapy around 4 months after surgery due to insurance reasons. Ideally he should have started around 2-4 weeks post-op.



Injury Background:

Patellar tendon rupture/tear are one of the worst knee injuries we see in physical therapy. With this injury the ligament/tendon that links the knee cap to the shin bone tears or completely ruptures. This tendon/ligament is needed to straighten the knee.

The surgeon has to put the torn parts of the tendon back together using sutures, drill holes in the kneecap and/or achors for the sutures. It usually takes 6-12 weeks for the tendon to heal and for the structure of the knee to be stable enough to start putting weight through the leg.

Physical Therapy and Recovery:

Rehabilitation for these repairs is straight forward. Patient will be in a brace that is locked in full extension for 6 weeks with crutches. During the 6 weeks patient is allowed to slowly progress the range of motion of the knee bend to 90 degrees. They are also allowed to work on non-weight bearing strengthening exercises for the leg with the brace on.

The brace is unlocked at the 6-week mark to allow active motion and patient can start standing exercises as tolerated. Gait training is usually started at this time as well.

To goal is to regain full range in the knee so it matches the non-injured knee. Strength wise we want at least 85% strength in the injured knee compared to the non-injured knee before we allow patients to return to their sport. Agility exercises can be started around the 3 month mark and low grade explosive/power exercises can be started around this time as well.

Stage 1 Physical Therapy:

Here are some early stage exercises for patellar tendon rupture rehab.

At this point we are mainly concerned with getting the knee bending and fighting through the scar tissue that has set in.

We also want to start activating the quad muscles and gluteal muscles to stabilize the knee so we can eventually get out of the brace.

Patellar Tendon Rupture Exercises:

1️⃣ Edge of Table Knee bends – He’s ranging his knee bend himself using his other leg to push the knee into bending

2️⃣ Total Gym Squats – Got him on the total gym to bend the knee into a good stretch and then use his muscles to push himself up again.

Stage II Physical Therapy:

Patient has progressed to more aggressive exercises for strengthening and ROM.

1️⃣ PT assisted ROM – The PT is aggressively pushing the knee into flexion. Cross friction massage is also applied to break scar tissue.

2️⃣ TRX Squats – Using a TRX strap to let him lean back to limit the stress on the knee while trying to get into a deep squat for a stretch

3️⃣ Seated on Ball ROM – Rolling back and forth on the ball trying to get the knee to bend more and scar tissue to stretch

Stage III Physical Therapy:

Now working on agility exercises and step down exercises to gain confidence in the knee.

Patellar Tendon Rupture Exercises

1️⃣ Agility Ladder – He’s doing agility ladder at slow speeds to build confidence in quick movements.

2️⃣ Ladder Mini Hops – He still cheats by leaning over to the right leg when landing, his cues are to land with his weight balanced non both legs.

3️⃣ Assisted Step Downs – We kept the step small so he can start gaining confidence as his quad has to eccentrically control the knee bending as he steps down.


Looking to rehab your Patellar Tendon Tear injury on your own? You’re in luck, we offer a step-by-step exercise progression program with exercise videos to help you recover fully without the need for formal physio/physical therapy.

For our complete Physical Therapy Treatment program at home check out our HOME PHYSICAL THERAPY REHAB PROGRAM FOR PATELLAR TENDON TEAR REPAIR.

It is a 12 week program to guide you through every exercise, stretch and milestone on your recovery from this injury.

It was developed by our expert PTs, who treat these types of injuries daily in our clinics.

The program is broken down into weekly video modules that show and explain what exercises and stretches to do for that week. The videos go over proper technique, form and what to look out for with that exercise.

This program is meant for those who do not have access to a licensed physical therapist and wish to get the best outcome for their injury.

To purchase the complete home physical therapy rehab program for patellar tendon rupture repair please CLICK HERE for Home Patellar Tendon Rupture Rehab Program.


Article Name
Patellar Tendon Tear/Rupture Recovery - Case Study, Exercises, FAQs
Overview of patellar tendon tear/rupture recovery with real patient case study, physical therapy exercises and FAQs.
Publisher Name
Motion Physical Therapy & Rehab
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