Studying US basketballers’ knee pain

A research team led by La Trobe University has just received an AUD$200 000 grant to study troubling knee conditions that affect about 40 per cent of professional basketball players.

Jill Cook is the lead researcher on the three-year project and is Professor of Musculoskeletal Health in La Trobe’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre. She said the La Trobe-led proposal was one of six chosen from 70 proposals world-wide to diagnose, treat and prevent knee pain from injured tendons.

The US peak National Basketball Association (NBA) and GE Healthcare announced the study last week. This project is part of an AUD$1.5 million partnership to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and their effects on nerves, tendons, joints and cartilage.

Widespread problem

The study will take place in the US and Australia, and involves collaborators from University of Newcastle and the University of North Carolina. Basketball Australia has also supported the study.

Professor Cook said nearly one per cent of NBA players miss games because of knee tendon injury, but the larger negative effect on training and performance has never been properly assessed.

The condition, also known as ‘jumper’s knee’, is a problem for athletes in many other sports – and for the wider community. Professor Cook said many current treatments for the condition were invasive and needed prolonged rest.

Link back to puberty

Players may develop tendon problems as teenagers and can then be at risk of developing pain later in life.

‘We will image the patellar tendon in pre-and early pubertal players every 6 months and correlate any changes in the structure of their tendons with their load and pubertal status.’

She said adolescence was a time when tendons tried to form attachments to the kneecap and placing excessive load on knees at this time may interrupt this process.

‘Preventing tendon pathology in young athletes has wide implications,’ Professor Cook said. ‘We aim to provide guidelines for training in adolescents that can decrease the prevalence of the condition within five years.’

Exercise treatment for jumper’s knee

‘We have shown that static exercises can change pain immediately and that athletes are 19 per cent stronger after completing those exercises.

‘Our group has used these exercises for in-season treatment that has reduced pain to an extent where players have not missed any games or training.

Professor Cook and key co-investigator Professor Darin Padua from North Carolina University have published more than 200 papers dealing with tendon research and tendon management in athletes.

The other researchers are Dr Suzi Edwards from Newcastle, and Dr Sean Docking, Dr Ebonie Rio and Ms Aliza Rudavsky from La Trobe.

Read more here: Patellar Tendon Pathology, Its Development and Relationship with Pain in Elite Athletes.

Flickr Image: Team Singapore Basketballers (Voxsports)