Sports and the Knee

The very nature of sports means that athletes are often subject to injuries, and many times, the knees take the brunt of those injuries. Protective gear associated with different sports is designed to protect the athlete from injury. It is important that all athletes wear the appropriate protective gear for the sport they are participating in, and follow their coaches’ and doctors’ advice concerning safety. By taking precautionary measure, injuries and conditions of the knee may be minimized.

Knee problems are often associated with men who participate in strenuous sports. However, knee problems also present some special concerns for young athletes and female athletes.

The Young Athlete

Children and young adults are participating in sports in increasing numbers — about 5 million at the elementary and middle-school level and about 7 million at the high school level. By far the most common types of injury in the young athlete affect the soft tissues — about 95% involve the muscles, tendons, and ligaments — but the other 5% involve bone fractures.

Most vulnerable to a fracture is the growth plate located near the ends of the body’s long bones, including the leg bones and the most common type of fracture is the stress fracture. The problem with a stress fracture is that while the child will experience pain, an x-ray examination of the injured site often does not reveal the fracture and the child may be returned to the sport without appropriate treatment.

Some authorities recommend that any child with an injury accompanied by pain and swelling should be assumed to have a fracture injury until fracture is ruled out by an orthopedic specialist. For the same reason, it is important never to encourage a child to “play through pain.”

The Female Athlete

Women’s participation in sports has increase at the high school level by more than 700% over the past 15 to 20 years, and with the increase in participation has come a rate of knee injury — specifically to the anterior cruciate ligament — that is 2 to 3 times higher than seen in men and that when viewed arthroscopically, the joint also has torn cartilage in about 50% of cases.

Studies of basketball and soccer injuries by the NCAA found that 50% of women’s knee injuries occurred as a result of indirect contact, while men are usually injured by direct contact. These indirect injuries typically result from pivoting and turning, applying excessive force on the knee or causing hyperextension of the joint. Strengthening exercises, added to the usual conditioning program, are considered an important part of a female athlete’s sports training.

For more information about sports-related injuries, please call (918) 494-AOOK (2665).