Knee pain is a common complaint among young athletes. If the pain is in the front of knee, it is usually caused by overuse rather than a physical problem. The ailment is so common it even has a name – adolescent anterior knee pain.
The knee is the body’s largest and strongest joint and is where the thighbone, the shinbone and kneecap are held together by cartilage, tendons and ligaments. It’s a complicated joint and when young, growing athletes put a lot of daily stress on it, overuse pain can develop.
Adolescent anterior knee pain normally does not cause swelling so if you notice that along with any clicking, locking or snapping sound from the knee, please see your family doctor to rule out a more serious problem. But if your teen athlete reports knee pain without those factors, it’s most likely adolescent anterior knee pain. Here are some ways you can help them feel better:
- Rest. Most athletes don’t like being told to take time off, but it’s important to rest and will help them recover. For example if a basketball player has knee pain, she can hold off on running drills during practice and instead focus on shooting or another skill that doesn’t require a lot of movement.
- Proper warm-ups and stretches: It’s also essential that young athletes warm up with stretching activities before each practice or game – that activity better helps their body prepare for the workout ahead. A dynamic warm up is the best choice when it comes to properly warming up the body. Some examples of dynamic exercise are high knees, butt kicks, side shuffles, lunges, etc.
- Strengthening exercises: By strengthening the musculature around the knee it can help to protect the injured area. Straight leg raises are one exercise that helps strengthen the muscles around the knee. Have the teen sit on the ground with their legs straight out in front and then bend the knee of one leg to a 90-degree angle, keeping the foot flat on the floor. Next, slowly lift the straight leg about six inches off the floor using the front thigh muscles. Hold for five seconds and then slowly lower it back to the floor. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
- Apply ice to a sore knee after a game or practice. Ice is best applied for 20 minutes on with an hour break in between.
- Use an over-the-counter NSAID pain reliever such as ibuprofen. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, may help ease the pain, but doesn’t help relieve any joint inflammation, which causes the pain.
By taking these steps, young athletes can minimalize their knee pain and get back to playing the games they love.