Exploring some more common sports injuries

Knee pain is extremely common in athletes and is often caused by improper technique.

By YONATAN KAPLAN
January 20, 2011 00:12
3 minute read.

 
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Last week, I briefly covered head, shoulder, elbow and back injuries.

In today’s article, I’ll discuss the knee, leg and foot.

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I would like to reiterate that this is by no means a comprehensive review, but merely serves as a guide to the more common injuries per body part.

Knee Knee pain is extremely common in athletes and is often caused by improper technique, lack of conditioning and poor flexibility.

To treat the cause of the pain, it is important to have an evaluation and proper diagnosis Common reasons for knee pain in athletes include the following: • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries: Partial or complete ACL tears can occur when an athlete changes direction rapidly, twists without moving the feet, slows down abruptly, or misses a landing from a jump.

• Iliotibial (IT) Band Friction Syndrome: Knee pain that is generally felt on the outside (lateral) aspect of the knee or lower thigh often indicates IT Band Friction Syndrome.

• Medial and lateral collateral ligament tears: MCL and LCL injuries of the knee are common. In fact, injury to the MCL is the most common ligamentous knee injury. The MCL and LCL provide restraint to lateral and medial strains to the knee joint.

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• Meniscal and cartilage injuries: The two most common causes of a meniscus tear are due to traumatic injury (often seen in athletes) and degenerative processes (seen in older patients who have more brittle cartilage). The most common mechanism of a traumatic meniscus tear occurs when the knee joint is bent and the knee is then twisted.

It is not uncommon for the meniscus tear to occur along with injuries to the ACL and MCL.

These three problems occurring together are known as the “unhappy triad,” which is seen in sports such as football when the player is hit on the outside of the knee.

• Articular cartilage: Cartilage is the white shiny covering over the ends of the bone. It has a very unique feature as it is smooth yet tough, and serves well as the bearing surfaces of the joint.

Over time, however, cartilage degeneration can lead to osteoarthritis, pain and disability of the joint. While it’s important to build up training gradually to avoid overuse, biomechanics can also come into play.

If you have flat feet or high arches, pronate or supinate, you may have more knee pain.

Appropriate footwear, insoles or orthotics can improve alignment and reduce injury risk. If you are a cyclist, proper bike fit can also make a huge difference.

Leg • Stress fracture: Stress fractures in the leg are often the result of overuse or repeated impacts on a hard surface.

• Achilles tendon rupture: The exact cause of a rupture of the Achilles tendon is unknown. As with Achilles tendonopathy, tight or weak calf muscles may contribute to the potential for a rupture.

• Hamstring strain: Hamstring injuries are common among runners.

The hamstring muscles run down the back of the leg from the pelvis to the lower leg bones, and an injury can range from minor strains to total rupture of the muscle.

• Shin splints: Shin splints describe a variety of generalized pain that occurs in the front of the lower leg along the tibia (shin bone). Shin splints are considered a cumulative stress injury.

Foot • Plantar fasciitis, or heel spur: Local pain in the heel, especially on weightbearing after a period of rest, which may radiate into the arch of the foot.

The above information is supplied by Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate), Director, Jerusalem Sports Medicine Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew University.

For further details, e-mail sportmed@zahav.net.il, call Yonatan at 054-463-9463 or visit www.jsportmed.com

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