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Patellar Tendon Tear Explained

On Sunday April 9th USWNT played the Republic of Ireland in Austin Texas. Towards the end of the half Swanson collided with Aoife Mannion causing her to fall to the ground and immediately grab her left knee. She was taken off the field on a stretcher for further evaluation. U.S soccer later announced that Swanson tore her left patellar tendon. Though there is still little information released, let’s break down what all this means.

The patella tendon is an important element of the knee complex to be able to fully extend (straighten) your knee. It connects the patella (knee cap) to the tibia (shin bone).

The patella tendon is the connection piece between the quad and the tibia via the patella and forms a lever system (See above image). As the quad muscle contracts it pulls on the quad tendon attached to the top of the patella. The contraction moves through the patella to the patellar tendon allowing the lower part of the leg to raise and straighten. This is technically a third class lever as the effort (patella tendon) is in between the fulcrum (patella) and load (lower limb). Without a patellar tendon, a person will not be able to fully extend their leg.

The recovery of a patellar tendon tear all depends on the severity. If it’s a partial tear bracing in extension for 6 weeks may be considered over surgery. At that point rehabilitation would begin and still require a few months of healing time. If it’s a more serious complete tear, surgery will be warranted to reattach and reinforce the patellar tendon. In this case rehabilitation would be about 6 months before starting return to sport activity.

U.S soccer has not yet announced the severity of the tear but Swanson did undergo surgery earlier today and we can conclude that it most likely was a more severe full tear. Due to the World Cup being only 3 months away it is unlikely she will be able to compete.

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