The knee is the biggest joint in the human body. It is what carries the body's weight and this is the reason why it can be easily weakened or damaged by different repeated movements linked to certain jobs or sports.
Essential to our mobility and stability, the knees are very heavily-used in sport. Because of this, they often suffer musculoskeletal pain that limits their mobility…
1. Sport: A Source of Knee Problems
The knees are often mistreated by sports people or high level athletes. They are subjected to knocks and multiple contacts caused by many sports. In fact, a third of sports injuries involve the knees. Among the most common injuries are sprains, tendinitis, meniscal tears (cartilage), compression of the nerve that runs down the side of the calf (sciatic nerve)… However, it is iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemural pain syndrome and knee bursitis that are most often diagnosed in athletes.
ILIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME This syndrome is caused long-term by repeated knee flexes and extensions. It mainly affects long distance runners (4 to 7% of them are affected), hikers and cyclists. It is characterised by the repeated rubbing of two structures on the knee: the fibrous band on the outside of the thigh (iliotibial band) and the femur (thigh bone).
PATELLOFEMURAL PAIN SYNDROME It is thought that around a quarter of athletes suffer or have previously suffered from this illness. It features irritation in the knee cartilage between the femur and the kneecap. It appears when the joint is overused or when you do activities that require you to jump regularly (basketball, volleyball, dancing, aerobics…)
KNEE BURSITIS This is an inflammation or a thickening of one of the 11 synovial bursa that make up each knee (a sort of small liquid-filled pad that reduces rubbing between the knee's bones, tendons and muscles). This can originate from repeated falls on the knees (volleyball, wrestling, judo, running…).
2. Preventing These Problems
It's clear that doing intensive sport can cause numerous knee problems that are often lengthy and difficult to heal and which get in the way of everyday life. Certain factors can increase the likelihood of these problems: being very overweight, having a bad gait or running technique, a bike that is unsuitable for the cyclist's size… There are several ways of preventing the appearance of knee problems:
avoid being overweight: the more weight your knees have to carry the more they will suffer! If you are overweight and want to do sport to slim down, choose activities in which you don't have to carry your weight, such as cycling and swimming.
do not suddenly increase the intensity of a sport that is demanding on the knees. Instead, gradually increase your exercise so that your body can adapt and strengthen itself.
make use of a professional coach if you are doing a sport for the first time so that they show you how to do the sport correctly to prevent injury.
invest in suitable shoes for your sport and foot shape. This is essential for preserving your joints!
set the height of your saddle correctly if you are a cyclist
wear a knee support if you are prone to knee pain
if you run regularly, choose flat surfaces over hilly ground
use walking poles for hiking as this will place less stress on your knees
stretch properly after each training session
consult a doctor if you feel any persistent pain.
Finally, if you suffer from knee problems and you want to do sport, choose swimming or cycling as they exert fewer impacts on your joints.Of course, ask your doctor's advice first.