Chances are that if you live an active lifestyle which involves high impact sports (running, soccer, basketball, fighting, etc) for a long enough period, you’ll have knee problems at some point. I’m a soccer player who also happens to be a mixed martial arts student and yup… you guessed it, I’ve had my fair share of knee issues. Same thing applies to the runners, dancers, and basketball players that are in my inner circle of friends. All that being said, even people who don’t partake in high impact sports aren’t immune to knee problems.
At this point, you may be wondering why the human knee is so vulnerable to injury. Well I think the answer to that question lies in understanding the structure of the human knee joint. The human knee is mostly held together by tendons and ligaments which you can think of as thick fibrous bands of tissue, as well as some cushioning in the form of cartilage. While these ligaments, tendons and cartilage are usually pretty strong in their own right, they don’t have the same level of structural integrity that bones do for instance. As a result, if enough force is applied to the knee at just the right angle, a tendon, ligament, and/or some cartilage could tear.
When we think about the structure of the human knee, it may seem a bit silly that such an important joint would be held together by mainly ligaments and tendons. Seriously though… why didn’t the creator just cast each of our knees in solid bone so that we never hurt them? Well a legitimate argument could be made that the knee joint is so designed because it has to somehow be strong enough to carry each individual’s body weight while at the same time maintaining enough flexibility to allow either of us to abruptly change direction should we find ourselves in the the way of an onrushing vehicle. In short, we give a little in the way of knee stability in order to gain knee flexibility which ends up being more evolutionarily favorable.
Anyhow, regardless of how much we philosophize about the marvelous structure of the human knee and all its shortcomings, the important thing most of us want to know is the tangible steps we can all take on a regular basis to protect our knees from injury.
- Lose weight
- Ice your knees
- Physical therapy
- Drink green smoothies
- Take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements
- Stretch and warm up before exercises
If you take a second to think about it, I think you’ll see that carrying extra weight around makes your knees work harder to support that weight as you go about your daily life. It is analogous to the suspension of a car that is always carrying more load than it is designed to handle. All other things being equal, the suspension of such a car will break a lot sooner than it should if it continues to carry more weight than it is designed for. Feel free to check out this article if you are interested in a super effective way to shed excess weight.
It is advisable to ice your knees after every workout you participate in because doing that will help stave off inflammation and the associated undesirable effects it can have on your knees if left unchecked. An easy way to ice your knees without leaving a drippy mess is to put some ice in a ziploc bag and place that on your knee for 15 – 20 minutes. Doing this after each workout, (especially high impact workouts) will significantly alleviate any discomfort you experience with your knees.
Sometimes, especially after a serious injury, we tend to overcompensate by leaning too heavily on the uninjured limb. An example of this would be the basketball player who heavily favors her left leg after spraining it during a pick up game. This can have undesirable side effects down the road if corrective action is not taken to thoroughly correct her gait. If you have suffered any sort of injury that has significantly hampered your ability to move, it is advisable to see a physical therapist to help you correct the overcompensating habits you may have picked up while you were recovering. This will make you less prone to injuring other parts of the body, including your knees.
Most people don’t like to eat vegetables because they quite frankly don’t taste very good. However, vegetables are very nutrient rich and beneficial foods which we should all eat on a regular basis so how does one solve this riddle? A good middle ground solution for this conundrum is to drink green smoothies ideally once a day. You can check out this article if you’d like to try out an awesome green smoothie recipe.
At the time of writing this, people are still deciding on how helpful these supplements are for the knee joint and joints in general. I can only speak from personal experience and can attest to the helpfulness of these supplements. Feel free to try them and see if they also work for you.
Stretching and warming up before exercising is very important for avoiding knee injuries. Warming up and stretching will get your body primed for physical activity before you fully engage, allowing your body to slowly ease into top gear while reducing the risk of injury. This is analogous to allowing your car engine to warm up during the winter months before you “tickle” the throttle on the highway on your way to work… it’s a lot better for your car. In the same way, warming the body and the muscles up slowly before you engage in a game, match, or sparring session, significantly reduces the chances of injuring your knee or sustaining an injury in general.
Alright folks, there you have it. Some significant steps that you can take to reduce the chances of sustaining a serious knee injury in the future. It should be noted here that no one can promise that taking all the above measures will guarantee that you avoid an injury because there are no guarantees in life. That being said, it is up to each of us to do what we can to give ourselves the best chance of success through this rather interesting journey called life. Till next time my friends, take care of yourselves and each other.
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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