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6 Ways to Ruin Your Knees

Expert tips on how to avoid damaging your knees.

4. Neglecting your ACL. continued...

Women in particular have a two- to eight-times higher risk for ACL tears compared to men, mainly because the way women naturally jump, land, and turn puts greater strain on the ACL. 

However, male and female athletes alike can be trained to "rewire” themselves and thus lower risks of knee injury.  That's done through neuromuscular training, which involves supervised practice in improving agility, leg strength, and jump-landing techniques for better knee joint stability.  

These specialized techniques are effective in reducing risks of knee injury by almost one-half, according to a 2010 review of seven neuromuscular training studies.

"Given what we know in how useful it can be in reducing ACL tears, it's irresponsible of coaches and parents to not require athletes to undergo neuromuscular training,” says DiNubile. 

He recommends that athletes of any age who play ACL risk-prone sports should seek help from an athletic trainer or other trained professional to help avoid this debilitating injury.

 

5. Overdoing it.

"You make gains in fitness when you work hard and then allow your body to recover.  You can't do a hard workout every day," Metzl says. 

A sudden increase in intensity or duration of exercise can cause overuse injuries from repetitive strain.  Tendonitis and kneecap pain are common symptoms in the knee.  

Pushing too hard is also related to overtraining syndrome, a physiological and psychological condition among athletes in which they exceed their ability to perform and recover from physical exertion, often leading to injury or lowered performance. 

Be sure to include stretching exercises before and after working out.  And follow hard training days with easy ones so your body can recover.   

6. Overlooking other muscles around the knees.

Weak muscles and lack of flexibility are primary causes of knee injuries, according to the Mayo Clinic.  When the muscles around the kneecap, hip, and pelvis are strong, it keeps the knee stable and balanced, providing support by absorbing some of the stress exerted on the joint. 

DiNubile stresses the importance of building the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, as well as proper strengthening of the body's core muscles, including the obliques, lower back muscles, and upper thigh. 

His favorite tool to help accomplish this strengthening is a Swiss medicine ball. Other exercises to try are knee extensions, hamstring curls, leg presses, and flexibility exercises.

Piplica recalls realizing just how weak some of her leg muscles were.

"Roller girls are striding out so much with their outer leg muscles, but we aren't necessarily working our inner knees," she says. "I remember when I would run for exercise, my calves and shins would hurt so bad. That surprised me, because I thought if anything was strong, it was my legs.” 

Piplica says she wishes she had been better educated about crosstraining activities for roller skaters, and what muscle groups they need to focus on to keep their knees healthy.

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