Injury Report: Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis Rams

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NAME: Jeff Wilkins

TEAM: St. Louis Rams (football)

POSITION: Kicker

INJURY: Tendinitis in left knee

OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED

Donyell Marshall, Golden State Warriors, Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks, Gabe Wilkins, Green Bay Packers, Ken Hill, Anaheim Angels

HOW IT HAPPENED

Jeff Wilkins, a six-year NFL veteran, led the NFC in scoring in 1999 with 124 points. He was a perfect 64/64 on PATs. He has kicked for three different teams and seems to have found a comfortable home in St. Louis, where he has played the last three years. He attended Youngstown State but was undrafted out of college; he originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

BIOGRAPHY

Jeff Wilkins, a six-year NFL veteran, led the NFC in scoring in 1999 with 124 points. He was a perfect 64/64 on PATs. He has kicked for three different teams and seems to have found a comfortable home in St. Louis, where he has played the last three years. He attended Youngstown State but was undrafted out of college; he originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

WHAT IS TENDINITIS OF THE KNEE?

Tendinitis of the knee is an inflammation of the tendons of the knee. It commonly affects the quadriceps tendons. The quadriceps is the large muscle in the front of the thigh, and its tendon passes over the knee-cap (patella) and attaches to the top of the leg. It is also called the patellar tendon. When one of the tendons becomes irritated, it will bother the athlete as he extends his leg. In a kicker's case, the injury develops because, as he kicks the ball, his quad muscles quickly fire and the tendons are stressed and pulled. Tendinitis can be troublesome because it might force the athlete to modify his motion. The motion of the leg is important to a kicker because he firmly plants his left leg before kicking with his right leg. While kicking, he uses the left leg to stabilize his torso and generate the force necessary to kick a ball 50 yards. A kicker suffering from tendinitis might describe a constant burning feeling in the knee, and, while kicking, he might feel that the pain becomes sharper.

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DIAGNOSIS

The injury is diagnosed using a physical exam and sometimes an ultrasound. The injury is obvious due to the area and type of pain as well as inflammation of the tendon.

TREATMENT

Conservative treatment for this condition includes strengthening the quadriceps muscle and stretching the hamstrings, the muscles at the back of the thigh. Pain medications, cryotherapy, and massage have also been found to be useful. Sometimes, an athlete can be fitted with a knee support or straps that allow him to decrease force on a particular section of the tendon.

PREVENTION

Most doctors warn that proper training in the preseason is a good way to prevent this injury. Tendinitis is not a serious injury and is merely caused by repetitive strain. For a place kicker, it may be the result of a slight change in his kicking motion, but there are no studies showing which particular motion might irritate the tendons of the plant leg. Place kickers have a higher probability of developing a minor knee injury like this because of the constant strain they place on the tendons of the knee. Tendinitis of the knee may be linked to a particularly hard playing surface, change in shoes, or insufficient warm-ups.

RECOVERY

This type of tendinitis usually takes 6-12 weeks to fully heal; however, the symptoms are mild enough that athletes can continue to play through the pain. Often, athletes modify their practicing or playing habits to minimize pain.

LONG-TERM OUTLOOK

Wilkins' injury is not likely to recur in the future. Most athletes who experience tendinitis once complete their careers without any further related discomfort or pain.

Medical information was provided by Michael J. Ciccotti MD, director of sports medicine at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Ciccotti is also the team physician for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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