Patellar Tendon Surgery Recovery Time

Dr. Pamela Mehta, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon, San Jose

Patellar Tendon Surgery Recovery

Patellar tendon surgery is a procedure to repair a torn patellar tendon. The patellar tendon is a band of tissue that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). It handles knee extension.

The recovery time for patellar tendon surgery depends on the severity of the tear, the type of surgery performed, and your lifestyle. It usually takes 6-12 months to fully recover from this surgery.

In the first few weeks after surgery, the knee will be immobilized in a brace or cast. You will also need to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the leg. During this time, your knee surgeon will recommend physical therapy exercises. These help you to regain range of motion and strength in your knee.

As you progress in your recovery, you will gradually be able to put more weight on your leg and do more activities.

In this article, we have summarised what to expect in the different stages of recovery. We will also go through some of the best exercises to help improve your recovery time from patellar tendon surgery. Your own recovery won’t follow this precisely, but you will have a better idea of what to expect.

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Typical Recovery Time after Patellar Tendon Tear​

Recovery time for a patellar tendon tear can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Surgical and non-surgical also differ in recovery time. For a partial tear, recovery time can range from several weeks to several months. This is helped by the use of immobilization, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication.

The time to complete recovery from a patellar tendon tear takes roughly 6 months. You will be given an exercise program that improves your mobility and joint strength. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition and hydration, is also important.

Complete Tears

Complete tears usually need surgical repair. You may need a longer recovery period of several months to a year.

The rehabilitation program for patellar tendon tears is critical to recovery. It may include physical therapy, exercise, and other interventions.

Partial Tears

Recovery from a partial tear depends on injury severity, whether this has been operated on or not. It it also affected by how quickly treatment was sought.

Heavy slow resistance training is effective rehabilitation for partial tendon tears in athletes.

rope partially torn frayed leaving one strand intact

Returning to Sports

If you are an athlete and wish to return to your sport, Dr. Mehta will assess your condition once you have recovered. She can then advise you on if and when you can return to your sport and any precautions you might need to take.

After you have recovered, you are likely to regain a full range of movement of your knee. The affected knee may be slightly weaker than before. It may also be a bit stiffer. Though, if treatment is completed soon after the injury, outcomes are often excellent.

Knee Physical Therapy

Patellar Tendon Surgery Recovery Time – A Timeline

The First 2 Weeks

In the 2 weeks following your procedure, your knee will be immobilized in a brace. Your leg will be fully straightened in the brace. You will be advised to only weight-bear the weight of your leg. You should use crutches while walking to take pressure off your knee, allowing it to heal faster.

You may also be able to bend your knee slightly at this point if a successful repair has taken place. This depends on the condition of your tendon after the injury and procedure.

From Weeks 2 to 6

After 2 weeks in a brace, you may be ready to partially weight-bear on the affected leg. At 3 weeks after patellar tendon surgery, partially weight-bearing will feel a little more comfortable as your joint gets used to the pressure applied.

Over these next 4 weeks, you will rebuild the strength of your knee to go from bearing 50% of your weight to being able to weight bear as normal by week 6.

After an assessment, you may also be allowed to gently bend your knee.

Knee Crutch

From Weeks 6 to 12

At 6 weeks you will be able to start bending your knee. Gradually start to bear weight on the affected leg while your knee is slightly bent. It’s important that you don’t weight-bear if your knee is fully bent at this point, as this could damage your tendon.

Over these 6 weeks, you will start to use your crutches less and less while moving. Your knee brace will be adjusted so that you can actively bend your knee.

In your exercise program, you will be instructed on how to do light squats, leg presses, and core strengthening exercises. Over the 6-week period, you will gradually improve the strength in your affected leg.

From Weeks 12 to 16

At roughly week 16 your leg brace can come off and you will no longer need crutches. You will gradually work towards having a full range of movement in your knee. You will also be given walking exercises to make sure that you are walking normally while on flat surfaces.

After 16 Weeks

At 16 weeks you may have regained the strength to bend your knee. You may also be able to walk on a flat surface, and fully weight-bear while your knee is flexed. You will be working towards being able to run, jump, and climb stairs as normal.

The recovery time for patellar tendon tears with close supervision is around 16 weeks. However, the full process of healing can take around 6 months.

woman bending her knee with help from a physical therapist

11 of the Best Patellar Tendon Tear Exercises

Here are some recommended exercises for patellar tendon tear recovery. It’s important to do this under the supervision of a physical therapist or orthopedic doctor. This is especially true if you’ve had patellar tendon surgery. These activities will help to reduce your patellar tendon surgery recovery time.

The exercises recommended will depend on the severity of the tear and the stage of recovery. If any of these exercises cause knee pain or discomfort, stop and seek advice from your doctor.

1. Isometric quad contractions (Quad sets)

Isometric quad contractions involve tightening your quadriceps muscles without moving your leg. This exercise can help to maintain muscle strength and prevent atrophy while the patellar tendon is healing.

To perform this exercise:

  • Sit or lie down with your leg straight out in front of you.
  • Tighten your thigh muscle by pressing the back of your knee down into the ground or surface you are on.
  • Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds and then relax.
  • Repeat this exercise for several repetitions, up to 3 times per day.

This exercise can be done shortly after surgery, and continued throughout the recovery process to maintain muscle strength and prevent atrophy.

2. Straight leg raises

Straight leg raises can help to improve quadriceps strength and range of motion.

To perform this exercise:

  • Lie on your back with your affected leg straight out in front of you and the other leg bent at the knee.
  • Tighten your thigh muscles and lift your affected leg up off the ground, keeping your knee straight.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds and then slowly lower your leg back down.
  • Repeat for several repetitions, up to 3 times per day.

This exercise is typically started a few weeks after surgery, once pain and swelling have subsided. Start off with only gentle raises, progressing over time as you regain strength.

3. Wall sits

Wall sits can help to improve quadriceps strength and endurance.

To perform this exercise:

  • Stand with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly slide down the wall, bending your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle. Hold the position for a few seconds, and then slowly stand back up.
  • Repeat for several repetitions, up to 3 times per day.

This exercise is typically started a few weeks after surgery, once pain and swelling have subsided.

4. Terminal knee extensions

Terminal knee extensions can help to improve quadriceps strength and knee stability.

To perform this exercise:

  • Sit in a chair with your affected knee bent and your foot resting on the ground.
  • Place a towel roll under your ankle.
  • Tighten your thigh muscles and lift your foot up off the ground, straightening your knee as much as possible.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds, and then slowly lower your foot back down.
  • Repeat for several repetitions, up to 3 times per day.

This exercise can be started a few weeks after surgery, once pain and swelling have subsided.

5. Hamstring curls

  • This exercise targets the hamstring muscles that help stabilize the knee joint.
  • Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and a resistance band looped around your ankles.
  • Bend your knees and lift your heels towards your buttocks, hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

It is best to do this exercise after the acute phase of the injury has subsided.

6. Clamshells

This exercise targets the hip abductor muscles that help support the knee.

  • Lie on your side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle and a resistance band looped around your knees.
  • Keep your feet together and lift your top knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis, hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower your knee back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.

It’s best to do this exercise in the early stages of rehabilitation if you have avoided patellar tendon surgery.

7. Step-ups

Targets the quadriceps muscles and helps improve balance and coordination.

  • Stand facing a step or stair with your injured leg on the step and your other foot on the floor.
  • Step up onto the step with your injured leg, then step down with your other leg, and repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

You should consider this exercise when you have regained some strength in your injured leg.

8. Heel slides

Targets the quadriceps muscles and helps improve knee range of motion.

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and a towel or sliding disk under your heel.
  • Slowly slide your heel towards your buttocks, bending your knee, then slowly slide your heel back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

Consider this exercise in the early stages of rehabilitation.

9. Mini-squats

Targets the quadriceps muscles and helps improve knee stability.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold onto a stable surface for balance.
  • Slowly bend your knees, keeping your weight over your heels, then slowly straighten your legs back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

This exercise is best saved for when you have regained some strength in your injured leg, and should be viewed with caution if you have had recent patellar tendon surgery.

10. Straight leg raises with dorsiflexion

Targets the quadriceps and tibialis anterior muscles.

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and a resistance band looped around your ankles.
  • Point your toes towards your shin and lift your injured leg up towards the ceiling, hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

Best to do this exercise when you have regained some strength in your injured leg.

11. Stationary Cycling

 This exercise targets the Quadriceps muscles.

  • Sit on a stationary bike with the seat adjusted to a height that allows for slight knee flexion when pedaling.
  • Begin pedaling at a slow pace and gradually increase your speed and resistance.
  • Maintain a steady pace for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Gradually decrease your speed and resistance and then stop.

This exercise is best done during the later stages of recovery when your knee has regained some strength and mobility.

How Resilience Orthopedics Can Help

pamela mehta scrubs headshot

Dr. Pamela Mehta is an orthopedic surgeon and a specialist in sports injuries, degenerative arthritis, and minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Mehta offers a concierge service and treats you holistically, rather than just fixing your joints. She listens to your concerns, takes time to explain how your condition and potential surgery will affect you, and works with you to create the best treatment plan.

Resilience Orthopedics is based San Jose, California. To make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment the first time, get in touch to begin your journey to recovery.


Ruby G.
Ruby G.
My experience with Dr Mehta was simply phenomenal. I had a cyst on my wrist and severe shoulder pain. Dr Mehta scheduled me quickly and her staff were so kind and personable.  She discussed the treatment plan with me in detail and made me comfortable with plan. Her bedside manner was kind, empathetic and thoughtful and she went out of her way to make me feel comfortable. After treatment my shoulder was pain free after months of agony, and she removed the cyst  from my wrist.   She followed up with me the next day to make sure I was ok. I can't recommend Dr Mehta highly enough, high quality, comfortable treatment from a wonderfully skilled surgeon. Thank you Dr Mehta!
S G.
S G.
I highly recommend Dr. Pamela Mehta. I was recently helped by her for a broken bone that needed surgery. She is a very detailed-oriented and thorough orthopedic surgeon who thinks creatively about solving problems every step of the presurgery, surgery and recovery. She is top-notch. I had an extremely positive experience with her and would recommend her and her staff to anyone seeking a smart, professional and detailed team for a bone cast or orthopedic surgery.
Samantha L.
Samantha L.
When your children like to run around barefoot it is inevitable that they will eventually get something lodged into their foot. Our daughter was climbing some trees in our backyard and wedged a couple splinters deep in her foot. After a few hours of attempts at home to remove these splinters with our own tweezers, soaking the feet, various internet remedies (and lots of scared screaming from our daughter when we got near her with tweezers) we sought the help of Dr. Mehta. Dr. Mehta's kind and calming approach was most helpful when she quickly examined the foot, spoke with our daughter, and then removed the two splinters from her foot. She helped to keep our daughter calm during the procedure and deftly pulled out the splinters. We recommend Dr. Mehta to anyone needing an expert physician who can deal with delicate patients!
Michele G.
Michele G.
Dr. Pamela Mehta earned my highest MD review.  I have seen a half dozen surgeon's involving multiple surgeries for orthopedic injury and this doctor checks all the best boxes: * an emphatic listener * holistic 'whole person' treatment; much more than just a skilled surgeon * tightly networked to other excellent coordinating care MD's * recommends surgical alternatives whenever possible * real concern for functional patient outcomes * tough when needed, even when treatment is uncomfortable * solid, well organized support staff Thank You Dr. Mehta!
Aaliya Y.
Aaliya Y.
I consulted Dr. Mehta after breaking my ankle in December 2019. She was extremely empathetic, knowledgeable, and took her time to explain everything to me so that I had a good understanding of my fracture and management options. She held my hand and got me comfortable with the idea of surgery and allayed my fears. Her office was very responsive, timely and  worked efficiently to help me get my imaging done in an expeditious manner. I highly recommend her for her incredible bedside manner, empathy and level of expertise. She is exactly what you want in your surgeon.
Katrina A.
Katrina A.
Life is full of mishaps and great relationships. I had one really big mishap and happily stumbled into a a wonderful relationship. I've been blessed to cross paths with the beautiful professional Dr. Mehta and her wonderful staff. In a time when pain seriously interferes with manners. They were kind and gracious even when I was not. The of staff  everything they we always great.
Mike V.
Mike V.
The best! I have been going to Dr Mehta for years and she is second to none! Highly recommend
A T.
A T.
This review is long overdue from a very happy and ever so grateful patient! I was having major shoulder pain to the point where I couldn't raise my left shoulder. I decided to go to Dr. Mehta after a friend recommended me to her.  Dr. Mehta was very attentive during our initial apt. She was quickly able to diagnose the root cause of my shoulder issue and explained the how and why I ended up with this pain. Her treatment plan involved me doing various mobility exercises and after two weeks I can honestly say I am at least 50% better. I think a few other Yelp reviewers mentioned this but I have to say it again, Dr Mehta truly cares about her patients and it was very apparent from how she followed up with my recovery. She called and emailed me to make sure I was following the plan and kept up with all my progress. I'm not sure how Dr Mehta finds the time to do all this but after my experience with her, I can say with certainty that she is a very skillful doctor and I have 100% trust in her.
steve k.
steve k.
I had a great experience my one time meeting Dr Mehta. She walked me through what the problem was and the course of action to fix it. She laid things out calmly with a step by step of how we get me back to 100% with no future pain. Her calm demeanor and thorough explanation made me feel at ease that everything would work out fine. I followed the steps provided and everything did work out just as she'd laid out. Should something come up again I will definitely be going to Dr Mehta again.
gajan t.
gajan t.
I write only a few Yelp reviews a year, and hope that this will help anyone who is trying to find the right orthopedic doctor.  I went to 3 orthopedic doctors when I had a serious knee issue earlier this year. Although, I received good advice from all the doctors, I chose Dr. Mehta because she spent a considerable amount of time helping me to understand the root cause of my knee pain and then created a blueprint moving forward of preventative measures. She was definitely very insightful in her diagnosis and more importantly her treatment. What actually inspired me to really write this yelp review was because of her follow up calls and how much I realized that she really wanted to see me get better. I've been to many good doctors in the bay area but only a handful that offer this much personalized care. I highly recommend Dr. Mehta and happy to talk to anyone about my experience if you trying to decide on an orthopedic doctor.