The knees experience up to five times the athlete’s body weight when running. This means a 150 lb runner puts up to 750 lbs of pressure on their knee when they run – over, and over, and over again. With each stride, the knee must absorb this pressure and shock – and over time, damage to the knee builds until pain may accompany every step.
Not surprisingly, the knee is the most frequently injured joint in runners, with a specific type of knee injury labeled “runner’s knee.” Also referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome, this injury is related to damage done over time. It causes pain where the femur meets the kneecap, at the very front of the knee, and around the edges of the kneecap. Patellofemoral pain is typically more noticeable when running up stairs or an incline.
For runners who participate in hurdle events or cross country, another potential source of knee pain is patellar tendonitis, or “jumper’s knee”. This injury is also one sustained over time. It can cause pain at the front of the knee, at the lower kneecap, or over the bony bump at the top of the shin. Swelling, redness and warmth may also be present.
Runners who routinely run on uneven surfaces may suffer a meniscus tear to the C-shaped pad of cartilage separating the tibia and the femur. This injury can be the result of many micro tears over time, or a trauma such as landing unevenly and twisting the knee, or falling and landing on the knee while running. Knee pain, swelling, stiffness, instability, and locking of the joint are common symptoms.
Arthroscopy is the preferred form of surgery for knee injuries that fall short of a full knee replacement. Arthroscopic surgery is done through the smallest incisions possible, providing a minimally invasive approach and a shortened healing time.
If you have arthroscopic surgery for any of the conditions mentioned above, you will need to wait for the arthroscopic wounds to heal and for the knee swelling to go down before slowly starting a training program. If the surgery was uncomplicated, you may be able to start jogging lightly on a soft track or grass over even ground.
Within six weeks, you may be able to start interval running, and by the three month mark many runners resume road running and more intensive workouts. Hurdle jumpers and cross country runners may need additional recovery and retraining time.
As always, consult your orthopaedist before beginning any training program, especially after a surgery. Dr. Strasburger creates specific recovery schedules for each patient to ease them back into their routine as soon and as safely as possible for optimal recovery and maximum mobility.