Recovery from a patellar tendon rupture depends on the type of tear (partial or complete) and can last anywhere from 3 to 12 months long.
Depending on the type of tear (partial or complete), the complete healing process for a torn patellar tendon may look like the following:
- Complete patellar tendon tear recovery: since the patellar tendon breaks into two pieces, it will require surgery, which can take about six months to recover along with extensive rehabilitation. Some patients have reported a period of about 12 months before complete recovery.
- Partial patellar tendon tear recovery: since the patellar tendon is not disrupted completely (some fragments may fray like fragments on a rope) and is still in one piece, treatment requires wearing a brace and physical therapy for three to six weeks while you recover.
You should note that the recovery rate may vary between patients, since everyone heals at different speeds. Significant factors that also may affect your recovery include your overall health and the amount of effort you put towards recovering faster.
What causes a patellar tendon tear?
Patellar tendon ruptures are often caused by indulging in high-impact sports and activities, particularly football, basketball and volleyball. These sports involve lots of jumping that may weaken the patellar tendon over time, making it more likely to rupture. Volleyball players are especially prone to patellar tendonitis, a condition popularly known as “jumper’s knee.”
Activities that result in a sudden, blunt smack to the front of the knee may result in a torn patellar tendon, which includes jumping on the knee from a height and, sometimes, even in car accidents.
Some chronic conditions can weaken the patellar tendon and make it more likely to get torn, such as:
- Chronic renal failure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Metabolic diseases, such as gout, hyperparathyroidism
The long-term use of steroids has also been linked with the weakening of the patellar tendon.
Can you walk on a torn patellar tendon?
It is difficult to walk and participate in daily activities if you have developed small or partial tears in the patellar tendon. Going even further, a complete tear may even result in disability.
When the patellar tendon ruptures, you most likely sensed the tear or heard a pop, however additional symptoms may include:
- Swelling and pain
- Inability to extend the knee
- An indentation at the bottom of your kneecap
- Moving of the knee cap up to the thigh
- Difficulty walking due to the knee instability
Can a torn patellar tendon heal itself?
A torn patellar tendon cannot heal itself unless specific measures are taken depending on the type of injury. For a complete patellar tendon tear, surgery and physical therapy are required to regain full knee function. For partial tears, physical therapy and braces are typically necessary.
Effective treatment of a torn patellar tendon improves your chances of restoring your range of motion and helps strengthen the surrounding tissues that support the knee joint.