“My knees hurt when I do this drill”. How many times do you hear this during the season? In this article we will go through common causes of knee pain and share with you some treatments and exercises.
“Growing pain” or “Growth pain” is something we hear alot when our Taekwondo students become juveniles, around 10 years old, or when the training load increases during that age period. Some kids get them, other don´t. Some kids get heavy pains while other feel mild uncomfort. Normally, the pain is felt in the afternoon and the evening and might be gone the next morning. Generally, the pain is felt in both legs, both behind and infront the knee. It can ofcourse be felt in other places but for the sake of this article I will focus on the knees.
These are the symptoms Taekwondo parents should be aware of when their child complains about pain:
- Pain in calfs, behind and infront of the knees, and in the thigh.
- Pain comes and goes. Might stick around for a week and then disappear, only to pop back up a week later.
- Occurs in late afternoon or evening.
- Around bed time the pain can become intolerable
- There might be headaches.
The most common area is in the front of the knee. What is happening is that the Apophysis (area of growth cartilage in the bone, where growth takes place) starts to become more active. The imbalance between the muschle and tendon length versus bone length creates a pull on the tendons that are attached to the apophysis. Young Taekwondo athletes under intensive training are more susceptible to inflamation in these areas.
The tibial tuberosity (the head of the shinbone and bottom of the kneecap) is the most common apophysis area to become affected. This obviously can become an issue for Taekwondo athletes where plyometric training is involved in almost every drill. During intensive training periods the tibial tuberosity is very susceptible to inflamation. When it does, the effects are called Osgood-Schlatter Disease. When the inflamation only takes place under the kneecap (patella) it´s called Sinding-Larson-Johanson (SLJ Syndrome). These inflamations cause pain when jumping, running and kneeling.
Patellar and Quadriceps Tendinopathy
Or what we call a “Jumpers Knee”. The condition of progressive pain resulting from overuse of the knee. Often confused with Apophysitis or even growth pains since Tendinopathy takes place in a similar area. Although it takes place in the same area it´s a completely different injury. Because of overuse, micro tears and collagen degeneration (the main structural protein in our connective tissues) occurr in the kneecap (patellar) tendon and is usually non-inflammatory. It mostly occurs in mature adolescents or adults, starting from15 and up. Lack of progressive, organized training, senseless plyometrics only to smoke out the athlete, and no flexibility training contribute to the causes of “Jumpers Knee”. Is your 15 year or older athlete complaining about knee pain? Tell him to see his doctor.
Patellofemoral Syndrome (PFS)
The king of anterior knee pain in all ages. It´s usually felt when the knee extends. The cause is a subtle offtrack movment of the kneecap when the knee goes from flexion to extension. The pain is commonly associated with plyometric movements (again..) and walking up stairs. The treatment is usually directed towards the inner thigh muscle to fix the track of the kneecap.
Treatments: How we can fix ourselves?
Most of the overuse injuries are caused by inflexible muscles. One might think it doesn´t apply to Taekwondo athletes, but what if we´re just stretching the “important” muscles? Athletes that are having knee pains need to focus on stretching and strengthening the muscles around the knees and hips.
- Hamstrings (rear thigh)
- Quadriceps (front thigh)
- Hip flexors (inner thigh)
- Piriformis (a deep muscle behind your butt)
- Calf (you know what that is)
Our team has designed a Knee-Pain Prevention & Treatment (KPPT) program for Taekwondo athletes that we recommend everyone should use, starting from 9 years old, atleast once a semester. It´s done at home, every day, for three weeks.
Prevention is what we are after. Prevention over treatment.
Follow our video for three weeks and post your results in comments here below.