We’ve all heard of the guy who blew his ACL while playing pickup basketball or the woman who took a tumble on the ski slope and tore her meniscus. While there are certain risks we all take in life in pursuit of exercise and fun, it’s also true that there are some people who are at greater risk for knee injuries than others. Let’s delve in.
This is a pretty large segment of the population and there’s not much you can do about being female. The reality is that women have smaller ligaments than men and also different hormones. Those are two risk factors that are unavoidable.
But researchers at the Loyola University Medical Center also noticed that females tend to jump differently than males. After analyzing the jumps of various athletes, researchers found that females land with their knees straighter and their feet turned more in an inward position. Males, on the other hand, land with feet turned more outward and the knees in more of a bent position—a stance that absorbs more shock and lessens the risk of injury.
The take home: serious female athletes can work with a sports medicine program to modify the way they jump. It can also help significantly to strengthen the quads, hips and glutes.
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in your knee that cushions and stabilizes the joint. As you get older, it naturally wears down. The meniscus can be damaged while playing tennis or a round of golf, but it can also be damaged slowly over time by everyday activities like squatting and kneeling.
The first line of defense for a torn meniscus is rest and ice. That’s usually followed by physical therapy to strengthen the muscles supporting the joint. Cortisone injections can also be helpful.
If those remedies aren’t effective, arthroscopic knee surgery can repair the damage. It’s a common procedure done on an outpatient basis, although a full recovery can take weeks or months.
With every step you take, the force on your knees is the equivalent of one and a half times your body weight. So if you’ve gained 30 pounds since high school, that’s an extra 45 pounds of impact wearing down your knees—more if you’re walking uphill or up steps.
But extra weight can impact the health of your knees in more ways than just that. Those extra pounds can also cause inflammation, which can lead to osteoarthritis.
Consider this statistic: One in five Americans has been diagnosed with arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that number jumps to one in three among people who are obese. Just one more reason to finally get serious about dropping five or 10 pounds.
The good news? No matter what your circumstances, there are steps you can take to protect your knees—and your health in general. If you’ve been experiencing chronic knee pain, take a look at our guide to learn more about what it means and what you can do.