A while ago Jonathan asked, and I’m paraphrasing:
“Does patellar tendonitis ever go away again permanently?”
It’s a question that keeps coming back and if you’ve had tendonitis for a while, you’ve probably asked yourself the same thing.
To answer this we’ll first do quick recap of what research has to say about recovery time. This will give us a good baseline for our expectations, but because I felt like this alone wouldn’t be enough to give you a well-rounded answer, I decided to take it one step further.
So I emailed everyone who’s taking my course on recovering from patellar tendonitis and I asked these two questions:
How long did it take for your knees to feel normal again?
Would you say that your tendonitis has gone away completely?
Some of the answers were really surprising, especially to the second question, but before we get to the juicy bits, let’s take a quick look at the research on recovery time.
Part 1: Research on Recovery
According to academic research, people with patellar tendonitis can expect to have a 3 to 6 month recovery time. In one study 31% could get back to sports within 12 weeks, 35% took between 12 weeks and 6 months, and the remaining 34% needed more than 6 months.
Of those with challenging cases of patellar tendonitis, only 46% could get back to pain-free sports within a year.
But if you look at pain scores, you’ll find that usually people have big reductions of pain in the first 6 months and then continued improvements up to the 12 month mark and probably beyond, but that’s where the follow-up period ended.
Part 2: Course Participants
To get more data I asked participants of my Tough Tendons course how long they had needed to get back to normal and whether they would say their tendonitis has gone away completely. Here are the results.
44% of those that responded to my email needed less than 3 months to get back to sports.
28% needed 4 to 6 months.
And another 28% needed more than 6 months to get back to sports.
The sample size was small, but the results are similar to what we covered earlier in the research section. Much more interesting than the raw numbers were the answers on whether their tendonitis had gone away completely.
The majority of the people I talked to described their current state using very similar language saying things like they were “99% cured”, had “0/10 pain”, or that their knees were back to “normal”. But here’s the rub.
Only a small number said their tendonitis was completely gone at that point. The majority said that even though there was no more pain and even though they were back to sports, they would not describe their tendonitis as “completely gone”.
Instead they used language such as “almost completely gone” or that it’s gone “most of the time”, BUT the one single point everyone agreed on and what surprised me the most, they were all convinced that they could still get better if they continued working on it.
One participant said it best:
“My tendonitis has not gone away completely yet, but I’m confident that it will.”
And while not everyone shared that level of confidence, they all agreed that their knees would continue to improve further over the long term.
Here’s why that was so surprising to me.
People that said they were 99% cured, that were back to running 10ks “without any issues” or “playing basketball without pain”, even those people were confident that their knees could STILL GET BETTER.
And this again matches with what academic research found. Only few studies tracked pain scores for more than a couple of months, but those that did reported continued improvement 6 and even 12 months after study participants had started their tendon strengthening work.
Now that we know all this we can answer this video’s question.
So will tendonitis ever go away completely?
Based on what we learned I would say the answer is it will most likely not go away again permanently, but if you follow an effective tendon strengthening routine, odds are you’ll still be back to sports in less than six months.
I wouldn’t say that my tendonitis has 100% gone away, but certainly 99% to the point where it’s not an issue for me anymore. I can play volleyball, I can play with my kids, and I can do everything else I want without having to limit myself.
And based on everything I know I would say that most people with patellar tendonitis can also get back to living their lives the way they did before the injury. You know, when you could just do stuff without regretting it the day after.
Aside from the straight-up factual answer to this video’s question, my advice to you is to keep up your strengthening work even after your knees already feel normal again and even after your back in to sports, because there is no time limit at which improvements suddenly stop.
If you want to know more about what works for patellar tendonitis and how you can avoid wasting months on stuff that does not work, check out my research report about the injury.
 John J. Wilson and Thomas M. Best, “Common overuse tendon problems: A review and recommendations for treatment,” American family physician 72, no. 5 (2005).
 J. L. Cook et al., “A cross sectional study of 100 athletes with jumper’s knee managed conservatively and surgically. The Victorian Institute of Sport Tendon Study Group,” British journal of sports medicine 31, no. 4 (1997).
 Peter Malliaras et al., “Patellar Tendinopathy: Clinical Diagnosis, Load Management, and Advice for Challenging Case Presentations,” The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy 45, no. 11 (2015): 894.
 Roald Bahr et al., “Surgical Treatment Compared with Eccentric Training for Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumperʼs Knee),” The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery 88, no. 8 (2006): 1693.
 Stasinopoulos Dimitrios, Manias Pantelis, and Stasinopoulou Kalliopi, “Comparing the effects of eccentric training with eccentric training and static stretching exercises in the treatment of patellar tendinopathy. A controlled clinical trial,” Clinical rehabilitation 26, no. 5 (2012): 428; Roald Bahr et al., “Surgical Treatment Compared with Eccentric Training for Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumperʼs Knee),” The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery 88, no. 8 (2006): 1693.