Your knee is pretty important. It is a complex joint, featuring a closely-interconnected combination of bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. In fact it is one of the most important joints in your body. It provides you with the means to not only walk but run and jump, bend and stretch. It’s a vital part of the mechanism by which you stand up and sit down. All important stuff!
Looking after our knees, and taking care of them whenever we are exercising is so important. One of the best ways to do this is to understand how the knee is formed. Here’s a quick anatomy lesson for you:The knee is the joint which joins the thigh bone, or femur, to the shin bone (tibia). The kneecap, or patella, is the hard bit of the knee at the front. The bones are cushioned by pads of cartilage, which act as shock absorbers.
The bones are all connected via tendons, which allow the knee to flex. In addition, the joint has ligaments which stop the bones moving further than they should. It also has fluid-filled sacs, which aid with smooth movement.
These complex bits of anatomy can so easily be damaged through both wear and tear and over exercise – or even by just moving in the wrong way. For this reason it is good to have an understanding of some of the most common knee injuries so you recognise when you need to take action. If you suffer an injury while exercising or playing sports, or if you just experience frequent pain when walking or moving around, you should make sure you see your doctor for advice as soon as you can. Below are some of the most common types of knee injury.
One of the most frequent sports injuries is a torn cartilage. Commonly caused by sudden movement while playing team games such as football or rugby, torn cartilage is just that – a tear in the rubbery cartilage which helps cushion the knee joint. A torn cartilage will cause pain, swelling and stiffness in the joint, and can be severe. Torn cartilage does not heal easily – small tears may repair themselves, but bigger, more serious ones may require surgery. If you have experienced a torn cartilage injury, you may be advised to wear supportive braces in the future to help prevent any repeat of the problem.
Another frequently injured part of the knee is the ligaments – these can also be easily damaged. Too much stress on ligaments while exercising can stretch them or even, in the worst cases, force them to snap. They can be caused through sudden movements, such as a change in direction.
Ligament injuries will usually be obvious – you may even hear the ligament tear, and there will be plenty of pain and an inability to place weight on the joint. Ligament damage can be severe, and in the worst cases surgery may be needed, but most problems will heal themselves with rest, time and physiotherapy. A brace may also help you bear weight on the joint while it is healing.
Also know as jumper’s knee, this is, as the name suggests, more commonly experienced by athletes who jump frequently while training or competing. Featuring a painful inflammation of one of the knee’s tendons, the condition usually occurs as a result of over exercising.
The problem can create fluid retention in the joint and associated swelling, and the knee will be painful to touch. Treatment usually includes plenty of rest as well as targeted exercise, but if not treated it can lead to serious issues and may need surgery to correct.
Iliotibial band friction syndrome
Similar to jumper’s knee, runner’s knee is the common name given to iliotibial band friction syndrome, or ITBFS for short. The iliotibial band is a thick piece of connective tissue which stretches from the pelvis, past the knee to the outer side of the shin bone.
If the iliotibial band rubs against the femur as you straighten and bend your knee while running, the connective tissue can become inflamed, causing ITBFS. It is most commonly caused by running too much, but can also occur from cycling.
Symptoms include pain, inflammation and a feeling of tightness. Treatment includes resting, adjusting your training schedule so you are not running further than your body can cope with, and physiotherapy. It is important to get a proper diagnosis, as carrying on running with ITBFS could cause serious issues.
Infrapatella fat pad impingement
Another quite common knee ailment is infrapatella fat pad impingement, or Hoffa Syndrome. Often experienced by sportsmen and women, it is basically irritation of the fat pad in the knee, and can cause restricted movement, swelling and pain when exercising. Treatment involves the application of ice to bring the swelling down, pain management and exercises to improve strength and flexibility. In severe cases surgery may be necessary.
Although these are the most common knee injuries experienced by people while exercising, it is important to remember that other problems may occur. Diseases such as osteoarthritis or even fractures and breaks can all cause similar symptoms to those listed above.
So.. what is the most important thing? WHENEVER your knee hurts seek medical advice. Whether you play sports or not. After all, we are all pretty reliant on our knees!