Knee injury question: what just happened to my father?

Not a request for medical advice, but can anyone shed any light?

While visiting my sister in Nashville, my father (from what I could gather in a couple of confused phone conversations) was walking along a brick sidewalk, failed to notice some steps, and next thing he knew was flat on his back.

Slipping and falling is one thing, but he snapped (tore? broke? ruptured?) the tendon behind his kneecap…in both of his legs. He couldn’t move. Now he’s lying in a hospital bed and they’re going to do surgery either tonight or tomorrow. He’s on tons of heart medication and refused to add painkillers on top of them, so he isn’t feeling too good.

He’s 69. He’s never had any difficulty walking, until today. He was tempted to suspect a pacemaker malfunction, but doesn’t think he blacked out.

Is this incident unusual? Do older men just randomly fall down and break both their patellar tendons? What might the cause be?

Thanks in advance,

IANADoctor, but here are some layperson’s thoughts: Connective tissue in the knees does seem to be susceptible this way; the anecdotes I hear often involve the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) as well as the patellar tendon.

Especially in people whose leg muscles are kind of out of shape and therefore don’t support the joints, the knee ligaments/tendons can take some serious hits. Sez here:

Sounds like your dad just had the bad luck to “fall on to a partially bent knee” on both legs when encountering those unexpected steps, and ruptured both patellar tendons. And if the knees suddenly don’t support you, then yes, you generally wind up horizontal.

It doesn’t sound as though any kind of blackout or brain problem was necessarily involved. He may well have just been a victim of gravity. But I repeat, I am not any kind of a doctor and am totally unqualified to offer any diagnosis.