Knee injuries - Athletic Injuries

Knee injuries are common in athletics as several of the events apply a huge amount of pressure onto the knee joint. Examples of common knee injuries are listed below:

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB syndrome)

What is ITB syndrome?

The iliotibial band runs from the pelvis to the knee and serves to protect and support the knee joint. ITB syndrome occurs when the band repeatedly rubs against the lateral femoral condoyle; it consequently becomes irritated and inflamed; this is usually due to overuse. This condition is common in runners.

Symptoms of ITB syndrome

Common symptoms include pain, especially when the leg is bent or fully straightened, swelling and bruising. Movement may also be limited as a result of pain and athletes may experience a tingling sensation just above the knee.

Treatment for ITB syndrome

Treatment will usually involve a combination of rest, ice and elevation; this will reduce swelling and allow time for healing. Anti-inflammatory medication, massage therapy and specific stretches and exercises will also help to ease symptoms and strengthen the band, which will prevent injury in the future.

Jumper’s knee

What is jumper’s knee?

Jumper’s knee is also known as patellar tendinopathy and refers to damage of the patella tendon, which connects the kneecap to the tibia. This tendon facilitates the action of jumping and landing in tandem with the quadriceps group of muscles in the thigh. Over time, if the action of jumping is repeated, the tendon may begin to wear down and small tears may start to appear.

Symptoms of jumper’s knee

Symptoms of jumper’s knee include pain around the lower portion of the kneecap, inflammation on the affected side of the knee, pain when the quadriceps muscles are contracted and restricted movement around the joint. Recurrent symptoms may indicate a more serious condition so it is advisable to get checked over by a doctor.

Treatment for jumper’s knee

The most effective form of treatment is rest; it is important not to carry on training with an existing injury as this can exacerbate the situation. Alternating exercise which applies pressure on the knees with a gentler form of exercise will allow the knee sufficient time to recover. Physiotherapy can also help to strengthen the joint and improve flexibility. Anti-inflammatory medication and pain relief may also help to ease symptoms.

Preventing jumper’s knee

Adequate rest periods are the most effective means of prevention; wearing knee supports and supportive footwear will also help to prevent injury. Massage therapy and specific stretches will help to treat existing conditions as well as conditioning the body to be more resistant to injury in the future.

Meniscal tear

Meniscal tears are more commonly known as cartilage tears; these often occur as a result of direct impact, changing direction quickly or landing powerfully or awkwardly. The menisci acts as absorbers and support the knee; cartilage lies on the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) sides of the knee; when they become stretched beyond their limits they become strained and may tear.

Symptoms of meniscal tears

Symptoms include severe localised pain at the site of the tear, restricted movement and swelling. The knee will usually be unable to bear weight as a result of a tear.

Treatment for a meniscal tear

Treatment will initially involve rest and ice compressions; however most professional athletes will undergo surgery if a tear has occurred. Following surgery, the knee should be rested and allowed to recover; this may take several weeks. Physiotherapy will help to gradually increase strength and movement in the joint.

Ligament damage

Ligament damage often occurs in events that involve running and jumping.

Causes and examples of ligament injuries

Often ligament damage occurs in conjunction with a cartilage tear and results from an action which involves the knee twisting or an awkward fall. Ligament damage may affect the collateral ligaments (which run along the inner and outer sides of the knee) or the cruciate ligaments, which are located inside the knee joint. Generally, cruciate ligament injuries are more serious than collateral ligament injuries.

Symptoms of ligament injuries

Common symptoms include localised pain, restricted movement and inflammation; the knee may also feel weak.

Treatment for ligament injuries

Treatment will usually depend on the severity of the injury. Treatment for minor ligament damage will predominantly involve rest and measures to reduce swelling such as ice packs and anti-inflammatory medication. More serious injuries may cause the knee to be immobilised; this will prevent the knee from bearing weight and allow time to heal. In some cases, surgery will be required; this is particularly common in professional athletes. Physiotherapy will help to gradually introduce exercise and strengthen the joint.

Preventing knee injuries

It is important to do a thorough warm-up and cool down; this will help to get the muscles warm which will prevent injury. Try to avoid sudden, twisting movements as these can apply significant pressure to the knee joint. Knee supports may be worn to protect the knee and supportive footwear will help to cushion the knee when a person is landing.

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