Understanding knee injuries is important because young athletes at the junior high and high school levels develop more knee injuries and knee-related problems than any other group of athletes. Although they are active in recreational sports during off-seasons, typically they do not follow a conditioning regimen specific to their sport. Programs of this type help avoid “overuse” injuries.
Adding to this problem is the fact that these young athletes often experience a growth spurt at this age. During a growth spurt the long bones of the body (such as the femur) grow faster than the muscles (quadriceps). Often this causes muscle irritation and discomfort in joints, especially the knee.
The most common painful conditions affecting the knee are patellar tendonitis and chondromalacia patella. These conditions affect the front of the thigh muscle at the kneecap and the tendon that extends from the kneecap to the shin. Typically weak quadriceps (thigh muscle) or weak hamstrings (back of leg) coupled with poor flexibility causes these conditions. A sudden increase in exercise intensity may also cause these conditions.
Understanding Knee Injuries – Treating This Condition
Athletes who plan to participate in sports that combine endurance running and sprinting should begin a sport-specific training program beforehand. Sports in this category include soccer, field hockey and more. In addition, a running program that combines long-distance running with sprint running, agility drills, and acceleration/deceleration drills is usually quite effective.
Most coaches try to prepare athletes by handing out pre-season conditioning programs at the end of the school year. Typically such programs include proper stretching information and a running program with sports-specific drills. We would be glad to review any such program with your child.
We also suggest strength training for the quadriceps and hamstring muscles three times per week. In addition, a daily stretching program for both muscle groups is essential.
Thomas Suspenski, PT, ATC
797 E Lancaster Ave. Suite 2
Please refer to patient education for other brief articles in our educational series. It is through these articles, in part, that we keep our patients (and others) informed of common injuries and conditions, their treatment and healthcare in general.