Knee injuries are unfortunately pretty common. You might know someone that’s suffered knee pain, or it may even happen to you at some point. Why are knee injuries so common? What can you do to protect your knees?
This is not medical advice. If you think you have a knee injury, see your doctor or physiotherapist.
How Your Knee Works
The knee is the biggest and most elaborate joint in your body. Above it you have your femur (thigh bone), below it your tibia and fibula (shin bone), and in front of it the patella (knee cap). The patellar tendon attaches your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) to your tibia; this is the tendon your doctor taps to test your knee-jerk reflex! Within the knee, your lateral and medial collateral ligaments – on the outside and inside of your knee respectively – prevent side to side movement. You also have the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments which prevent front and back “sliding” of your knee so that your tight bone stays above your shin bone and does not slide forward or backwards.
Common Knee Injuries
Being stuck between the hip (very stable joint) and the foot (connected to the ground) the knee is a common injury site. It also supports your entire body weight. Here are a few common injuries:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): Injury to the ACL often happens in sports like soccer, football, and basketball. A sudden stop and change of direction; like planting your foot as you’re running for the ball to slow down and turning at the same time is a common culprit.
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL): MCL injuries are usually the result of a blow to the outside of the knee. Think a side tackle from football or a hockey player being hit by the puck on the outside of their knee. The blow pushes the knee “inwards” damaging or tearing the MCL and sometimes the ACL.
- Patellar tendon: Overuse injuries are often the offender here as a result of doing too much too soon or over time or poor biomechanics. This is a common injury in runners and sometimes called runners knee. Pain gradually develops below the kneecap.
How to Prevent Knee Injuries
Having strong surrounding muscles are good for prevention. Do resistance exercises to make sure your muscles are strong. You can also do agility training. Another important way to prevent a knee injury is to practise proper technique in the activities you do. Work with a personal trainer or exercise physiologist to learn technique and improve your skills. Some athletes will work with a coach to make sure they are moving in the most optimal way for their sport.
While knee injuries can happen to anyone, most people recover well. Recovery time depends on how badly you’ve been injured, commitment to rehabilitation exercises, and your level of health. The important thing is to see a doctor and get professional advice.