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3 Ways to Protect Knees

Posted 12/11/2017 by UHBlog

Whether you call it a “trick knee,” “bum knee” or downright inconvenient, dealing with sports-related knee injuries impact how well you play. Talk to us about techniques, training and procedures to keep you in the game.

Close-up of a runner's knees

You may not be a superstar athlete but one thing many recreational, high school and/or collegiate athletes have in common with football, soccer, basketball and volleyball stars is knee injury.

“There are a variety of different reasons people develop knee injuries,” says sports medicine specialist Michael Salata, MD. “The thing we see quite commonly in both kids and adults is overuse. That (overuse) can lead to injuries in the muscles and tendons around the knee joint.”

According to Dr. Salata, you might develop a knee injury if you:

  • Play a single sport, such as soccer or basketball, without varying your routine. This is a problem he sees in children and high school and college athletes a lot. Because the young person shows an aptitude for one sport, they're pushed to do that activity year round.
  • Hurt your knee previously, maybe by stepping into a hole or twisting it, which can make you susceptible to re-injuring it if the muscles around the knee aren't strengthened.
  • Have a genetic pre-disposition, such as osteoarthritis.
    “Grandma has arthritis, so it's in the family,” he says.
  • Participate in certain activities. For instance, running distances on concrete puts pressure on the front of the knee. Over time, that can lead to injuries.

As with any mechanical bearing, conditions of the knee can become degenerative, Dr. Salata says.

“For most of us, it's time and use that may contribute to knee pain,” he says. “As humans, we do have a shelf life and our joints age.”

Being sidelined by knee injuries isn't an inevitability, however. Here are three ways Dr. Salata recommends to protect your knees:

  1. Preventative exercises. There are a lot of exercises that can be done to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the knees. Look online for suggestions, ask a fitness trainer at the health club or get in touch with the sports medicine specialists at the University Hospitals Sports Medicine Institute, who can help guide you on the best path to take.
  2. Proper execution of your sport. Do you know landing or cutting techniques to minimize impact on your knees? Are your ankles, knees and hips properly aligned so that you're not putting unnecessary wear and tear on your knees? A personal trainer or physical therapist can help you focus on and practice the basics.
  3. Know when to seek help. “For the kid who plays football who goes to cut and hears a pop or the weekend warrior who twists his knee and now it's swollen, they should see a health care provider sooner than later,” Dr. Salata says.

Otherwise, stop the activity for awhile, rest the knee and try first-line therapies, such as icing your knee or taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine. If the injury isn't better after a few weeks, then seek help.

If you do go to a sports medicine specialist for relief, there are a number of therapies you might undergo, depending on the severity of your knee injury, including:

“The nice thing at UH Sports Medicine Institute is that we provide care in an integrated system,” Dr. Salata says. “We're all working together to get you back to your sport or activity quickly.”

Another bonus is that the UH Sports Medicine Institute is far-reaching, with locations as far west as UH Elyria Medical Center, as far east as UH Geneva Medical Center and as far south as UH Samaritan Medical Center in Ashland, Ohio. To schedule with a sports medicine provider, call 216-983-PLAY.

Michael Salata, MD is an orthopedic surgeon, director of the Joint Preservation and Cartilage Restoration Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Associate Team Physician for the Cleveland Browns. You can request an appointment with Dr. Salata or any other doctor online.

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