Knee injury is one of the most common injury for runners, especially injuries that affect the knee joint and patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). The kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone, the stress of overuse can cause irritation, resulting in sharp, sudden or dull and chronic pain. Runner’s knee injury is one of the most common overuse injury among runners, but several issues can cause PFPS injuries.
Symptoms of Knee Injury:
PFPS can affect one or both runner’s knees. Some symptoms include tenderness behind or around the patella, often towards the center of the knee. You might feel pain at the back of the knee, a sense of cracking or that the knee is giving out. According to some research, women tend to have twice as many knee injuries as male runners due to the fact that women have wider hips, creating a greater angling of the thighbone to the knee, adding more stress to the kneecap.
Causes of Knee Injuries:
Biomechanical problems: For some runners, the patella might be misaligned, too large on the outside than on the inside, it might be sitting too high on the bone, which can dislocate it more easily. Also, runners with underpronation (high-arched feet) provides less cushioning and overpronation can pull the patella sideways; these biomechanical issues can wear out the knee cartilage in the knee joint, which reduces shock absorption.
Weak muscles: This is one of the main causes of runner’s knee injuries. Runners with weak quadriceps muscles cannot support the kneecap, which forces it to get misaligned and create biomechanical problems.
Muscle tightness: Tight calves and hamstrings can put extreme pressure on the kneecap when you run, pulling the kneecap to either side which increases kneecap friction.
Overuse: Running entails a lot of knee bending, running too much can irritate the kneecap joint and the nerves around it. Including lots of downhill running without enough leg muscle training can add to much impact on the kneecap.
How to Prevent Knee Injuries:
Strength train your lower body muscles: Especially the quadriceps, glutes and hip abductors. Strength training these muscles will also increase your stability, which will help to prevent other injuries such as IT Band syndrome.
Stretch your muscles: Muscle flexibility and mobility is as important as muscle strength. By loosening your muscles regularly and increasing their flexibility, the kneecap will be able to glide easily up and down the patellar without much friction. Make sure you stretch and foam roll the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and hip flexors.
Run on different running surfaces: Running is a high impact sport, constantly running on hard surfaces can add more stress to the knee. Make sure you run on a variety of surfaces; trail, grass, track. Even combining only road running and trail running makes a huge difference on the impact running causes.
Listen to your body and figure out your right pace: Most running injuries occur when runners are trying to push too hard or do too much too soon. Make sure you increase your training intensity and distance gradually (distance-10%/week). Make sure your body feels comfortable with the gradual increase of intensity and distance. Your body needs time to adapt to new training stimulus and distance.
As soon as you feel any knee pain, cut back on the running distance, avoid knee-bending activities (cycling), running downhill, walking down stairs. The sooner you cut back on the knee impact, the faster the healing of a runners’ knee injury will kick in.
5 Exercises to prevent knee injuries:
- Wall Sit
- Fire Hydrant
- Reverse Lunges
- Lateral Lunges