Knee Injuries and Gymnastics
The body’s main shock absorber, which cushions the impact generated by jumping and landing, is the knee. To cite an example, the landing impact incurred from a double backward somersault adds up to a vertical ground reaction force 8 to 14 times greater than a gymnast’s body weight.
These forces absorbed by the knee can cause micro-trauma and acute trauma to ligaments and tendons. Sixty percent of gymnastics knee injuries occur in the patella, or the kneecap, which may either become dislocated or acquire tendonitis, growth plate inflammation or patellar instability.
Running, jumping and landing are activities powered by a group of large front thigh muscles called the quadriceps. Upon contracting, the quadriceps pull on the patella, forwarding motion energy to the femur or thighbone. The power generated at the knee is paramount in jumping and landing. The patella has a tendon connecting to the shinbone, or tibia, which delivers the force from the knee to the tibia. In a growing athlete, this tendon connects to the tibia at the growth plate.
The developing plate of a young gymnast has yet to fuse to the tibia, and it is further weakened by the repetitious pulling that occurs during landings.
Prevalent in active growing gymnasts around 10 to 13 years old, an affliction known as Osgood Schlatter’s disease causes pain and inflammation at the tuberosity of the tibia, the bone outcrop below the patella, which is attached to the patellar tendon.
Symptoms of pain, swelling and hamstring tightness characterize patellar tendonitis. Also known as “jumper’s knee”, it involves inflammation of the patellar tendon, particularly at the lower half of the patella where the tendon connects to the kneecap.
Osgood Schlatter’s disease and patellar tendonitis can be alleviated by pain-killing medication like aspirin or ibuprofen to minimize the swelling. Constantly applying icepacks also helps in reducing inflammation in the affected area. Rehabilitative hamstring stretching can lessen pressure on the knee. As soon as the knee has mended considerably, and the pain is gone, practice and entering in competitions can resume.
There is a groove at the end of the femur where the kneecap rests. Patellar subluxation and patellar dislocation are the terms used to describe the kneecap slipping out of the tracking in this groove. Subluxation occurs when the kneecap partially moves out of the femoral groove. Dislocation meanwhile happens when kneecap is completely dislodged from its usual position in the femoral groove.
There are soft tissues and muscles surrounding the kneecap which help to steady it during movement. Stressed muscles and excessively lose soft tissues can cause kneecap displacement, resulting in pain and inflammation. If an athlete lands badly, the patella can be dislocated, jolted out of the femoral groove. To treat these injuries and restore the joints to their former condition; wearing a knee brace, taking a lengthy period of rest and physical therapy are needed. Constant weakening of the joints is a deterrent for the athlete in joining sports practice and competition. Leaving the problem unattended may even cause the development of arthritis in the future. Unfortunately, despite rehabilitative care, structural knee problems in some athletes make surgery a necessary evil.
Anterior joint pain (pain at the front of the
knee) in gymnasts is brought about by Plica syndrome,
or a swelling of the fold. Composed of the soft tissue
surrounding the knee joint, the fold is a U-shaped band
which can thicken and cause the knee to pop or snap upon
bending. Sitting positions in which the knee is flexed
for long periods of time can also result in anterior knee
pain in athletes. As with other gymnastics-related injuries,
management of this condition involves rest and strengthening
exercises like hamstring stretching to keep the plica
pushed back and preventing too much stress to the knee.
A knee support can help reduce inflammation and pain and
prevent future occurrences of knee pain.
5 Star Rating
Wrap around Elastic Knee Support
Excellent medial and lateral support ideal for gymnasts. This wraparound design knee brace is suitable for cases of knee instability due to knee ligament injuries.
How does it work?
This high quality knee brace is lightweight and comfortable, with lock-stitch taped seams and fully trimmed edges for durability. The flexible spiral stays and dual criss-cross elastic straps create firm medial and lateral knee support reproduce the effect of a tape job to support the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) of the knee.
The upper and lower Velcro fasteners act as 'anchors' and knee stabilisers to maintain maximum support. This provides support without compromising mobility and may be more suitable for those engaged in activities that would be overly compromised by a hinged support.
When can I use it?
*Extremely effective in relieving knee pain by taking
the stress off knee ligaments that may be injured. *Perfect
for injuries to the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) or
Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL).
The meniscus or knee cartilage is a recipient of nearly 20% of athletic-related injuries brought about by considerable trauma. Despite it being a superior shock absorber that aids in steadying the knee during movement, a great and forceful impact can cause the meniscus to tear. All athletic-linked knee injuries are the domain of sports health medical professionals. To verify the extent of the injury, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is recommended to present 3-dimensional images of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments to determine whether rehabilitative or surgical treatment is needed.
Another 20% of knee injuries in gymnasts occur in the knee ligaments. Damage is brought about by a sizeable force brought about by falls. These bands of elastic tissue that encase the knee are one of the major stabilizers during movement. During trauma, one or more ligament bands can tear causing either partial or complete damage to the anterior cruciate or the medial collateral ligaments. Immediate medical intervention is required for these types of injuries as a majority of athletes will need a lengthy recovery period after rehabilitative treatment or surgery.
Timely diagnosis and management of knee injuries are
crucial in preventing excessive swelling, pain and discomfort.
If untreated, knee injuries can lead to even more serious
conditions which will prevent an athlete’s participation
in sports altogether. It is vital that athletes refrain
from sports-related activities at the onset of pain. Allowing
the injury to heal properly through surgery or rehabilitative
treatment will prevent the development of debilitating
arthritis in the future.