Knee Pain in Athletics

Knee Pain in Athletics

September 18, 2012

There are many reasons that people exercise regularly: to stay healthy and fit, to gain stamina or train for a specific event, or simply for the sheer pleasure of being physically active. While there is a lot to complain about when we’re jogging or cycling, like being sweaty or tired, being active also just feels really good. Simply getting outside and moving our bodies around for a little bit of time every day can really do wonders for our physical and mental health.

However, while being physically active brings with it many excellent health benefits, repeated and aggressive movement can also put a strain on our bodies, especially our muscles and joints. One of the most common complaints among athletes both amateur and professional is knee pain. The more active you are, the more demanding that activity is on the complex knee joint, and this can result in injury and discomfort.

Common Athletic Knee Injuries

One of the most common knee injuries that can afflict the physically active is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome — or, more commonly, runner’s knee. This kind of knee pain is caused by overuse; running, while great for cardio and the health of the human body overall, is rough on the knees. Runner’s knee occurs when the patella (or kneecap) is mal-tracking. When the knee bends and straightens, the quadriceps muscles pull the patella straight along the patellofemoral groove. However, if something causes the patella to drift to one side or the other, this irritates the femoral groove in the thighbone where the kneecap rests, causing pain and discomfort. There are lots of reasons that can cause the mal-tracking of the patella that leads to runner’s knee, and the most common cause is muscle weakness. These muscle issues usually revolve around tight hamstrings, weak quadriceps muscles, weak hip muscles, or weak muscles in the core of the body, such as those around the abdomen and spine. Whatever the reason, the pain can be bothersome and interfere with your exercise routine and general comfort.

Preventing Athletic Knee Pain

There are many things that you can do to prevent knee pain triggered by athletic activity. First and foremost, proper form and equipment is absolutely necessary. If you are a runner, make sure that you are training correctly, and that you have an excellent pair of shoes that fit you well and correct any orthopedic issues you may have. For cyclists, proper cycling shoes are a must, as is a bike that fits your body correctly. Warming up appropriately, and especially adequate stretching, are absolutely necessary steps to preventing injuries. It is also important not to overdo your exercise, especially if you are just beginning or returning to a more active lifestyle.

First Aid and Long Term Treatment

If you experience knee pain while running, good first aid is the first step. First, stop doing the activity that has caused the pain. Next, be sure to follow the RICE formula: rest the injured knee and avoid putting weight on it, ice your knee with cold packs wrapped in a towel for short periods of time, wrap your knee in an elastic compression bandage that fits snugly but is not painful, and elevate your knee above your heart. If pain and swelling persist, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkiller like ibuprofen. In many cases, rest and time will set your injured knee right.

If your knee pain does not quickly go away after following these steps, a course of physiotherapy and exercise therapy is the best way to correct the problem. These exercises can loosen tight muscles and tendons and strengthen weak ones, giving the knee joint the support that it needs to function properly and meet the demands of an athletic workout routine. Physiotherapy and exercise routine will return strength, flexibility and endurance to your injured knee, as well as correct other muscle weakness which will prevent you from injuring yourself again. In many cases, with proper exercise therapy, you can return to running even stronger than before!

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