Knee Injuries – How to Avoid This Common Sports Injury
Knee injuries are the most common sports injury seen in Britain today.
In running alone, 60% of all runners are injured in an average year and about one third of these sports injuries affect the knee.
Knee injuries are also the most common sports injuries sustained by school children, as they often occur during football, hockey and rugby.
Yet far too little is known by the general public about the advantages of knee support or the other simple steps that can be taken to help knee injury prevention.
The knee is the largest joint in the body, made up of bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments. A knee sports injury can involve any of these.
It can be hard to understand knee injuries and some of the complicated terms used do not make this any easier for the layperson.
You may have heard of knee ‘overuse’ for example. Well, although it is sometimes called an ‘overuse’ injury, the real name of the condition is iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). This is one of the most common knee injuries. It is actually caused by a lack of strength and flexibility rather than anything than can accurately be described as overuse. In fact, it can be brought on in runners even if they are only running around 5 miles, which can hardly be seen as overuse.
There are a number of other common knee injuries. First, there is a knee sprain which means you have stretched or torn a ligament. Then there are strains, which mean you have torn a muscle or tendon.
Tendinitis happens when a tendon gets inflamed. Damage to the menisci is a really common sports injury, especially in activities where a side to side movement or a sudden change in speed can cause them to tear.
And, of course, sometimes there can be cartilage injuries, where a small piece of bone or cartilage breaks off, causing long term knee pain.
Osgood Schlatter Disease is particularly common in teenagers aged between 10-15, especially if they are having a growth spurt. A typical symptom is pain just below the front of the kneecap on the tibia, which gets worse with activity. There is sometimes a bump below the knee joint that is painful to touch. Osgood Schlatter Disease is especially common in boys who play sports involving running, kicking, or jumping, all of which put strain on the quadriceps muscles.
The arterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most common knee ligament to be damaged in a sports injury, usually by a sudden twist or landing badly after a jump. Interestingly, women athletes are eight times more likely to suffer from damage to the arterior cruciate ligament than men.
Nobody is immune from knee injuries, with many professional footballers like Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Paul Gascoigne being well known for their knee injuries.
For many knee injuries, it is advised to rest the knee and apply compression. In these cases, a knee brace can help. In the very worst cases, surgery may be necessary.
As knee injuries are so painful and so common, prevention is always better than cure. When playing sport, it is a good idea to wear protective equipment, such as kneepads and shin guards. Knee support including knee straps and knee braces can also help prevent injury and protect your knee if you have injured it previously.
It is also vital to make sure you always warm up and cool down and that your training programme is increased gradually, so that you do not put your knee under undue strain.
It is well worth trying weightlifting to strengthen your muscles and yoga or stretching to improve flexibility, as this will cut down the risk of sports injury. And, of course, if your sport involves jumping, do make sure you bend your knees when you land.
Increasing awareness about knee injuries, knee support and sports first aid can help you stay fit, so is a vital ingredient to becoming a successful athlete.
Lucy A Falle