Health & Body

Ask Deb: “My Student Has Pain at the Bottom of Her Kneecap. Why?”


One of my dancers has knee pain that is baffling me. She dances 5–6 hours a week and has had the pain for a few months. She says it doesn't hurt until she starts dancing, and certain strenuous movements make it worse. She says the pain is at the bottom of her kneecap and mentioned that her locker at school is on the bottom (which means 4–5 grand pliés a day). I have been encouraging her to see a doctor and wondered if you had any thoughts on this?

Having pain at the bottom of the kneecap, especially if it is between the kneecap and the tendon attachment on the top front of the shinbone, is often diagnosed as jumper's knee or tendinitis of the quadriceps tendon. You are right in thinking that a deep squat or grand plié would put extra stress on that tendon. Couple that with potential growth spurts and you've got problems. Encourage her to focus more on stretching and releasing the quadriceps muscles and see if that helps.

Going to a doctor is a smart move. She will test the knee for ligament laxity and watch whether the patella, or kneecap, moves straight and smooth as your student bends and straightens her knees. Pain underneath the kneecap can come from cartilage or meniscal problems.

Good luck with getting a proper diagnosis. She's lucky to have you as her teacher!

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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