Preventing knee pain in athletes

You don’t have to be around sports like AFL, soccer or netball for too long before you become familiar with knee injuries.  In some cases, these can be season ending and in others a persistent niggle.

Traumatic injuries such as ACL tears can be prevented (up to a point) with strength and conditioning exercises that build motor control, balance and power.  However, if a player is unlucky enough to experience a large twisting and side bend force to the knee, even the best prepared player can sustain a major tear.

A common problematic knee condition we see is Patella Tendonitis and variants of this presentation.  These types of conditions can be related to:

  • Overuse with repeated stress on the tendon from running, kicking and jumping
  • Direct impact from a tackle or contact

Some people are more susceptible to these injuries due to structural alignment of their feet knees, hips, and pelvis.


The patella tendon runs from the base of the kneecap to the bump at the top of the shin.  When this tendon becomes inflamed it is called ‘Patella Tendonitis’ (also known as jumper’s knee) and can cause pain either behind the kneecap or across and front of the knee.  This pain is usually aggravated with activity such as playing sport or simply walking up and down stairs.

Similar injuries that also cause front knee pain in young boys include Patella Tracking Dysfunction and Osgood Schlatter’s disease.

Treatment and Recovery

Ice for 20mins directly to knee. This is especially important immediately following training and game day or following any aggravating activity.  If pain is significant, this should continue every 3-4 hours for several days.

Infra-patella brace or strapping. The brace sits immediately below the kneecap and creates compression and stabilization for the knee.  The brace can be worn during activity, though taping the tendon is more appropriate for game day.

Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. While mild cases of patella tendonitis can be self-managed, persistent or more significant pain may require professional assistance.  A wholistic focus that includes full body assessment is important to understand where in the biomechanical chain things are breaking down.  Both hip and foot imbalances are common causes of knee pain and tendonitis.  Spinal adjustments, cold laser therapy, dry needling and rehabilitative exercise and also commonly used interventions to help these presentations.

Managing load. Particularly with adolescents, where bony growth plates are still open, load must be appropriately managed.  Time away from activity might be required to allow the body to heal.

Prevention and Pre-habilitation

We all know prevention is better than cure.  Strong lower limb muscles with good alignment and balance don’t just happen, they need work.  Exercises that help prevent knee problems include.

  • Ankle and calf stretching
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Squats
  • Gluteal activation – resisted clams
  • Hip flexors stretching

If you would like more information or have questions about knee injuries simply ask one of the practitioners from our professional team.