Why are knee injuries so common for athletes and nonathletes alike? Your knees carry a heavy load and must stand up to torque every time you make a rotation, twisting, or pivoting motion. Each of the knee’s three bones (the femur, tibia, and patella), as well as its cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, are vulnerable to injury and gradual breakdown.
Whether you’re concerned with how to prevent knee injuries going forward or are looking to regain strength after an injury, knowing more about how your knee works—and keeping it strong with targeted exercises—can go a long way to prevent common knee injuries. In this article, we’ll go over the steps you can take to prevent common types of knee injuries:
Fracture or broken bone, most often the patella (kneecap)
Sprain or strain of the knee ligaments, most often the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL)
Tear in the meniscus (cartilage)
Overuse due to repeated or prolonged activity that is hard on your knees, such as running
How to Prevent Knee Injuries
They may be incredibly common, but many knee injuries are preventable with proper warm-ups, regular exercise, and the right equipment. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Don’t skip the warm-up! Never jump straight into an activity without giving your joints and muscles time to get acclimated. Remember to make time for a cool-down, too.
If you plan to introduce more rigorous activities to your everyday routine, do so gradually. Abrupt changes in intensity can raise your risk of injury.
Exercise your legs regularly. Strong leg muscles provide better support for your bones and soft tissue.
Purchase shoes with the right amount of arch support.
Replace your athletic shoes when needed, depending on your activity. Worn-out shoes can’t provide the support you need in your feet and legs.
Wear well-fitting protective equipment. If your sport requires knee guards, be sure that they are the proper size and fit.
Can Physical Therapy Prevent Common Knee Injuries?
Physical therapy programs can be very effective at preventing common knee injuries. A physical therapist can design a plan that’s customized to your condition and activities. For example, an athlete in a sport that involves lots of cutting and pivoting may learn how to prevent knee injuries with:
Dynamic stretches and flexibility drills for the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip adductors, hip flexors, and calf muscles
Running drills such as forward and backward running, zigzag running, and bounding
Strength training such as double- and single-leg squats, lunges, and hamstring exercises
Core strength exercises such as planks and bridges
Plyometric exercises such as single-leg hopping
Other sport-specific drills
Learn More About Knee Injury Prevention in Chicago
Whether you’re an athlete or not, getting sidelined with a knee injury is frustrating—and often requires a long recovery period. Find out how physical therapy and proper warm-up techniques can keep you off the sidelines with Impact Physical Therapy! You can find us in Chicago’s South Loop, Lakeview, and Norridge, as well as the southwest suburbs and Champaign Urbana. Request an appointment today!