How to Prevent Knee Injury
We take our knees for granted. They do what they’re supposed to do, taking us from place to place without any trouble. We walk, we run, we jump without a concern. But at the first sign of pain everything changes. We limp, we moan, we sit. We pick up the TV remote. A knee injury is more than just a game changer. It can be a life changer. If you want to learn how to protect your knees from knee pain and prevent knee injury, read on.
Types of Knee Injury
The knee is a complex joint made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. There’s a lot that can go wrong with it. For example:
- Fractures — caused by traumatic injury or osteoporosis
- Anterior crucial ligament injuries — sprains or tears of the ACL often occur during athletic activities
- Dislocation — often the result of trauma, such as car accidents, falls, or contact sports
- Meniscal tears — the cartilage between the thighbone and shinbone can be damaged by trauma or natural aging processes
- Bursitis — inflammation often due to overuse or even repeated pressure from kneeling
- Tendonitis — inflammation of the tendon, common among athletes
- Tendon tears — damage due to an overstretched or impacted tendon
- Collateral ligament injuries — common among athletes involved in contact sports, often due to direct impact or collision
- Ilotibial band syndrome — a common injury among long-distance runners, beginning as a minor irritation then gradually building to a more serious injury
- Posterior cruciate ligament injuries — this ligament at the back of the knee can be injured by impact or during a fall
With so many of these possible injuries being the result of trauma, such as an accident or a collision on the basketball court, you might think that the best advice for knee injury prevention is “don’t leave the house.” But the opposite is true.
A Fit Knee is a Healthy Knee
One of the best defenses we have against knee injury to stay healthy and active. Strong muscles muscles help to support and protect the knee joint, giving it a healthy defense against injury and decreasing recovery time. Exercise also improves bone strength and bone density, putting us at lower risk of damage from osteoarthritis as we age.
Five Steps to Prevent Knee Injury
Maintain a healthy weight. Every unnecessary pound adds stress to your joints. Many people who suffer from knee pain find that losing weight is enough to provide relief. A nutritionally balanced diet is essential not only for weight but also for healthy muscles, ligaments, and bones.
Wear sensible, supportive shoes. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, this is common sense for pain relief. If you’re exercising, the right shoe for the activity you’re performing can make the difference between a fun day on the field and a trip to the emergency room.
Train for strength. Your leg, hip, butt, and core muscles are important for proper body alignment and support. They are the foundation of good posture and can relieve pressure on the joints. Keeping these muscles strong (through strength training, walking, and other exercises) is critical for the long term health of the knee joint. Remember also not to overdo it. Pain is a clue that something is wrong and you should back off, rest, try something different, or even see a doctor or physical therapist for advice. Toughing out an injury often makes things worse.
Stretch and maintain range of motion. It’s important to balance strength training (which shortens the muscles) with stretching (which lengthens them). Focus on quads, hamstrings, calf, hip flexors, and glutes. Maintain knee range of motion to maintain full function of your knees. If you can’t fully bend or straighten your knees, you can’t use or exercise them to their full potential, which inevitably leads to more injury and increased pain.