You don’t have to be an elite sports person to suffer knee pain. In fact, Australians of all ages and fitness levels report knee pain every year, with some suggesting it affects around 19 per cent of the population at any given time.
This is not surprising given the knee is the largest - and most complex - joint in the body, comprising four major bones and 4 major ligaments.
What we do know, is every day Australians are more likely to develop knee pain if they:
Carry excess weight
Are tight or weak in the legs or glutes
Participate in particular sports including netball, basketball, rugby and skiing
Have suffered a previous knee injury
What are the Most Common Types of Knee Injuries?
Injury to Ligaments – including Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
Ligaments work together to support and stabilise the knee joint. Excessive force can stretch these ligaments beyond their normal range, causing them to tear. One of the most common ligament injuries is to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and often occurs because of a sudden change in direction or an incorrect landing from a jump. It’s the reason this injury is more commonly found in sports such as netball, skiing and AFL. New research has revealed Australia has the highest rate of ACL reconstructions anywhere in the world, which is disappointing given it is largely preventable.
Overuse injuries of the knee occur as a result of a repetitive action (such as running) and can present in various ways including tendonitis, bursitis, osteoarthritis and patellofemoral pain. It is often caused by lack of appropriate muscle strength, poor core stability, muscle imbalance, incorrect technique and inflexibility.
Tendon and Cartilage Tears and Damage
Tendons are soft tissues that connect the muscles to the bones. Cartilage (such as the meniscus) work as a cushion between your bones. It is not uncommon for someone involved in a physical activity, fall or hit to tear or overstretch the tendons and cartilage around the knee, causing swelling and pain.
Knee Injury in Children
Despite having age on their side, children are not immune to knee pain. According to a study undertaken by the Medical Journal of Australia, the number of young Australians undergoing knee reconstruction surgery has risen more than 70 per cent in the last 15 years – with the greatest increase among children under 14.
While it is unclear what is behind this increase, experts suggest it could be due to early specialisation in individual sports. Others suggest a lack of "free play" in a generation of children often glued to electronic devices. Either way, as parents it’s important we find a healthy balance.
What to do if You Have Knee Pain
The first thing you should do if you have pain in your knee, is stop or safely modify the activity you are doing.
Injury or damage may also present as:
Swelling to the knee
Bruising to the knee
'Giving way' of the knee
Locking or clicking of the knee
Inability to move your knee