Our knees are particularly prone to injury and sports that involve running or jumping put us at greatest risk. It’s not surprising, when you think about it, because walking exerts a pressure equivalent to three times a person’s body weight on the knees and running exerts a pressure of up to five times a person’s body weight.
In the summer months, when the weather is fine, more of us are inclined to pull on our running shoes and go out for a run or a game of tennis or even just a kickabout in the park. And although this can be great for our health and wellbeing, if we are not used to running, it’s easy to end up with an injury to the knee.
Here are some knee problems that we see regularly in the clinic, and some of the ways we recommend treating them:
This is the common name for patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is pain that is felt at the front of the knee, around the knee or behind the kneecap. The pain may be sharp and severe or dull. It can have a number of possible causes including weakness in the hip muscles which puts pressure on the quadriceps or misalignment of the kneecap, which may cause it to rub against the femur.
Treatment: Follow the RICE method – rest, ice to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, compression and elevation above the level of the heart. You can take painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help, particularly with your quadriceps muscle and you may also benefit from shoe orthotics to help position your feet correctly.
Sometimes called jumper’s knee, this condition causes pain at the front of the knee, on the bony bump at the top of the shin or near the base of the kneecap. The knee may also become swollen and red. It is normally caused by overuse of the ligament that connects the kneecap to the shin bone and is particularly common in sports that involve a lot of sudden stops and changes of direction, such as volleyball.
Treatment: The recommended treatment for jumper’s knee is the same as for runner’s knee.
Iliotibial band syndrome
The iliotibial band is a thick piece of tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh, attaching the hip to the top of the shin bone. It can become tight from strain or overuse, which can cause it to rub on the end of the femur called the lateral condyle. The result can be pain and inflammation.
Treatment: Follow the RICE method and take anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation. Physiotherapy may help to relieve pain and strengthen the muscles. If you develop chronic pain and inflammation surgery may be necessary but this is rare.
Prevention of knee injuries
Although we all know the basics for avoiding injuries, it’s easy to forget them. Always remember:
- Warm up properly before starting to run. A brisk walk or jog for 10 minutes will help your muscles to warm up thoroughly and it is equally important to cool down by slowing your running pace for 10 minutes at the end of your training session.
- Wear the right footwear as this can help to absorb some of the pressure that your knees are under. It’s a good idea to get advice from a proper running shop.
- Don’t overdo it. This is particularly important if you are running for the first time in a while or you play sport infrequently. A mix of running and walking can help you to build your stamina gradually.
- It’s important to rest as this allows your joints to recover from high impact exercise and your muscles to repair and build their strength.
Sports Injury Orthopaedic Specialist – Dublin
If you do get injured, seek help from a specialist if the pain doesn’t go away within a few days. If the pain is sudden and severe you may have a fracture or a torn ligament so you should seek help straight away. To discuss the potential treatment options, contact Professor Joseph Queally for diagnostic and treatment advice.