A Guide to Common Knee Injuries
The knee problems that threaten to derail your fitness, and how to prevent them.
Symptoms: Pain behind or around the kneecap, often when bending the knee. Pain is usually worse while walking downstairs or downhill.
Common Causes: Runner’s knee is usually an overuse injury, something that often afflicts long-distance runners, but other athletes such as weightlifters can also experience symptoms. It can also be caused by a direct blow to the knee, flat feet, weak quadriceps muscles or other factors.
Rehab/Prevention Tips: If already injured, the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is strongly advised—just don’t overdo it on the ice. Generally, some go with 20 minutes of ice applied per hour while others alternate putting ice on and off every 15 minutes or so. Seeing a doctor should allow you to get a better gauge on what you need to do.
Chris Watts, athletic trainer at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado—which has cared for many professional athletes over the years, gives warning about any knee extension machines at the gym (not the leg press, the one where you kick out the weights). He says the exercise places far too much stress on the knees and can increase the chance of developing runner’s knee.
McCall reports that developing this condition means “the person lacks hip stability in the frontal plane.” Doing plenty of front planks and side planks are imperative to building up that strength so stress doesn’t come down on the knee that it can’t handle. Another highly recommended exercise is the step-up to balance, in which the person steps up onto a box and brings his other leg up into a flexed position and holds it for a few seconds.
“[Doing these] will help the hip be stronger to support the knee because a lot of times, the knee collapses because the hip doesn’t provide that stability from the top down,” he says.