Head of the three-year project, Jill Cook, 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 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, part of a $1.5 million partnership to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and their effects on nerves, tendons, joints and cartilage.
It will be carried out in the US and Australia and involves collaborators from University of Newcastle and the University of North Carolina. Basketball Australia has also backed the study.
Professor Cook said nearly one per cent of NBA players miss games because of knee tendon injury, yet the larger detrimental 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.
‘We know that up to 40 per cent of basketball players have patellar tendon pathology. Our data suggests 50 per cent of those will have symptoms sufficient to consider change their training regimes,’ she said.
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 concluded. ‘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 more than 200 publications 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.
Media queries: Ernest Raetz 0412 261 919.
Flickr Image: Team Singapore Basketballers (Voxsports)