Every sport comes with its own risks and strains on the body, and it’s good to be aware of what those risks are. Some sports can put extra strain on the knees, whether through over-taxed muscles or the stress of supporting extra weights.
Here are some of the most notorious sports for increasing the risk of knee damage, and how best to minimise the risk.
Weightlifting naturally puts a lot of extra strain on the joints, particularly the knees during squats and when using free-weights. However, most problems in weight training come from incorrect posture and form when lifting, and lack of preparation. Always make sure you stretch and warm up before any weightlifting session, and always build up slowly to the heavier weights.
To help protect your knees when doing squats and other leg press movements, never fully lock your knees. Doing so means all the weight and pressure will be on your knee rather than your muscles, increasing joint stress as well as reducing the effectiveness of the workout. You should also be careful to keep your back straight and your weight on the heels of your feet when squatting.
Cycling is generally a low impact sport, but it can lead to knee pain if done without the proper precautions. Cycling involves a lot of repetitive motion, especially at long distances. In just one hour of cycling your knee will be repeating the same movement around 5000 times, putting stresses on the muscles as well as the joints and ligaments.
The main cause of knee pain in cycling is usually pushing your body too far too soon. You should build up your stamina and endurance slowly and steadily and listen to how your body responds. Pain in your knees doesn’t necessarily mean the end of cycling, but it does mean you should slow down.
Most of us have heard of ‘tennis elbow’ but tennis can also put a lot of strain on your knees. Running back and forth across the court with lots of sudden changes of direction and lunges mean your knees are doing a lot of work. Playing regularly can mean these problems build up and increase the risk of injury or developing conditions like osteoarthritis or bursitis.
To help reduce the risk of problems, you should always warm up and stretch before playing, and cool down gradually afterwards. Exercising and strengthening the leg muscles will also help to support the knee joint during play. You should also ensure you’re wearing appropriate shoes with plenty of support.
Football can be fairly high risk when it comes to knees, but this is generally more to do with injury from tackling than strain on the joints. However, it’s naturally a sport that involves a lot of leg work, so over-extension of the joints and wear and tear from running back and forth and quickly changing direction also take their toll.
To minimise the risk of injury, invest in a good pair of shoes that properly support your feet, and keep an eye out for damage and wear and tear. You should always warm up and stretch your legs before playing, and do knee strengthening exercises such as leg presses and lunges.
Basketball and netball
Any sport that involves a lot of jumping poses a risk of knee strains and injuries, including basketball and netball. As with most of the sports we’ve covered, much of the risk comes from not warming up properly, and insufficiently training the leg muscles to cope with the demands of the sport.
Both basketball and netball involve rapidly changing direction and stopping and starting quickly, as well as pushing off to shoot the ball at the net. This puts a lot of strain on the knee joints, so it’s vital to train properly with qualified professionals and develop the correct techniques for performing these actions.