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Knee biomechanics and related injuries

Knee injuries are a common occurrence in our daily lives. However, they are even more prevalent when participating in sports. Knee injuries can happen when making a sudden change in direction, an awkward landing, twisting or when slowing to a sudden stop. The course of treatment for an injury can range from strengthening to surgery, depending on what is needed to allow the knee to function properly.

The severity of a knee injury is determined by the structures involved, as well as the activity at the time of the injury. Common injuries include an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a cartilage or meniscus tear, and/or patellofemoral pain syndrome. An ACL injury can result from a direct blow to the front of the knee causing hyperextension (i.e., over straightening), a non-contact strain with hyperextension, and/or decelerating movements. Symptoms commonly present with an ACL injury include pain along the front of the knee, buckling, instability and swelling.

The signs and symptoms of a meniscus or cartilage tear – caused by a side-to-side strain to the knee while twisting, are swelling, catching, locking of the joint, as well as pain along the sides of the knee joint line where the cartilage is located. Patellofemoral pain syndrome or the tracking of the kneecap in the groove on the femur, produces generalized pain and muscle imbalances resulting in patellar hypermobility or "looseness."

Although knee injury is prevalent in the sports environment and at times can require surgical intervention, attention to knee tracking and proper biomechanics can help to prevent severe injury. Knee biomechanics incorporate the proper alignment of the knee over the second toe (i.e., the toe adjacent to the big toe) while performing weight-bearing activities like strengthening and landing.

During these strengthening exercises, the lower leg should remain vertical to the ground and positioned over the second toe. When doing stairs, lunges, squats, leg press or landings, it's important to maintain a ninety-degree angle at the ankle and the knee. Attention should be placed on avoiding a knock-kneed or bow-legged knee position to prevent abnormal stress and possible injury.

Along with the focus on biomechanics, other knee injury prevention techniques include hip strengthening, quadriceps muscle balance, and a motion control shoe for flat feet (i.e., excessive pronation)

For questions on knee injuries, other sports medicine topics or to schedule a Free Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at 414-219-7776 or 800-219-7776.