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Background and Purpose: Patellar tendinopathy is an overuse injury experienced primarily by athletes; especially athletes who participate in sports that involve frequent jumping. Therapeutic exercise is the primary conservative treatment for patients with this condition. However, some patients with patellar tendinopathy may be unable to tolerate the loading that occurs during exercise. The use of blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy for patients with patellar tendinopathy may allow the athlete to exercise with a lower load while still experiencing the physiological benefits associated with training at a higher intensity. The purpose of this case report was to detail the outcomes from a rehabilitation program utilizing BFR for two collegiate decathletes with patellar tendinopathy.

Study Design: Case Report

Case Descriptions and Interventions: Two NCAA Division III freshmen collegiate decathletes with a history of left knee pain prior to college and who had been complaining of increasing pain during the initial month of track practices. Findings from the musculoskeletal examinations included left sided lower extremity weakness, pain during functional testing, pain when palpating the left patellar tendon, and VISA-P scores less than 80. Ultrasound imaging at baseline revealed thickened tendons on the left with hypoechoic regions. Both athletes participated in 20 therapy sessions consisting of therapeutic exercises performed with BFR.

Outcomes: Both athletes experienced improvements in pain scores, increases in lower extremity strength, improved functional test performance, higher VISA-P scores, and improvements in tendon size and appearance as measured by diagnostic ultrasound.

Conclusion: Both athletes experienced improvements with the BFR-based therapeutic exercise program and were able to compete throughout the track season. The use of BFR may allow patients who are unable to tolerate exercise due to pain an alternative approach during rehabilitation. Future research should compare therapeutic exercise programs for this condition with and without BFR.

Level of Evidence: Level V


Originally published in The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy | Volume 15, Number 6 | December 2020 | Page 1184 DOI: 10.26603/ijspt20201184.