Knee Injuries: PFP & ACL lower extremity problems

Knee Injuries: PFP & ACL lower extremity problems
Photo by Sonja Hults

The knee is one of the most commonly injured areas on the body. Two of the most common types include patellofemoral pain (PFP) “runner’s knee” and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears or sprains. In fact, 50 percent of injuries for high school and college athletes are to the knee.

In college, while playing basketball, I am included in this statistic and tore my ACL. The public health care spends nearly $2.5 billion annually for knee problems.

PFP better known as “runner’s knee” occurs when pain is typically in the front of the knee. Bending starts to hurt. The daily movements of walking, sitting, and standing bring discomfort. Going downhill or downstairs is even worse.

Patellofemoral pain can be the result of overuse from bending the knee over and over again. A fall or impact directly to the knee can bring this irritation. Certain malalignments disrupting the kinetic chain can also cause PFP. Starting at the hip and down to the ankle, if any of these bones are not lined up correctly, the knee might carry the brunt of the movement pattern.

Feet problems can also cause “runner’s knee” which can include having flat feet (fallen arches) or overpronation (the feet turn inward). This changes the way you walk, which then leads to knee pain. As a result of any of these symptoms, the knee might start making a popping noise or become inflamed.

Most of the time PFP heals on its own. Resting, icing, and wrapping the knee can help. Strengthening the quadriceps is important and getting proper orthotics to help with the foot arch support can help. Surgery typically is not needed, but this is of course a case by case basis diagnosis.

The ACL is the most commonly injured knee ligament. We actually have 4 ligaments in our knee, but the ACL is the popular choice to be hurt. This tear can be caused by movements (especially in sports) that require sudden stops, change of direction, or jumping.

Most have said they hear the “pop” when this injury happens. The knee will start to swell and then bearing weight become difficult. Interestingly, women are more likely to have an ACL tear.

Women tend to have stronger quadriceps than hamstrings, which distorts the movement pattern of the knee. In general, women experience more stress on the knees when the land a jump or on impact. Most people like myself who have had ACL reconstructive surgery will develop osteoarthritis in that knee.

Proper muscle balance in the legs and having proper landing and pivot techniques are important to help with prevention. Basketball, softball, tennis, football, and soccer (basically all sports it seems) can put one at risk for an ACL tear.

Once the ACL is torn, the knee becomes unstable. The ACL is a ligament that holds the bones together in the knee. Some people can get away with wearing a stabilizing brace post injury. Physical therapy can also help recovery. Surgery can also be done.

The Lifestyle of the FIT & Healthy understands that exercise and movement comes with risk. However, the benefits of participating in physical activity far outweigh the risks. Our body has an amazing healing power, so don’t stay seated to avoid what could happen. The health risks of sitting are much greater.

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