To evaluate the ability of ultrasonography to predict eventual symptoms in an at-risk population, 52 elite junior basketball players' patellar tendons were studied at baseline and again 16 months later. The group consisted of 10 study tendons (ultrasonographically hypoechoic at baseline) and 42 control tendons (ultrasonographically normal at baseline). By design, all tendons were asymptomatic at baseline. No differences were noted between subjects and controls at baseline for age, height, weight, training hours, and vertical jump. Functional (P < 0.01) and symptomatic outcome (P < 0.05) were poorer for subjects' tendons than for controls. Relative risk for developing symptoms of jumper's knee was 4.2 times greater in case tendons than in control tendons. Men were more likely to develop ultrasonographic changes than women (P < 0.025), and they also had significantly increased training hours per week (P < 0.01) in the study period. Half (50%) of abnormal tendons in women became ultrasonographically normal in the study period. Our data suggest that presence of an ultrasonographic hypoechoic area is associated with a greater risk of developing jumper's knee symptoms. Ultrasonographic patellar tendon changes may resolve, but this is not necessary for an athlete to become asymptomatic. Qualitative or quantitative analysis of baseline ultrasonographic images revealed it was not possible to predict which tendons would develop symptoms or resolve ultrasonographically.