Jumper’s knee, the name for this injury is quite appropriate as it’s a common tendency among athletes who are required to jump a lot (gymnastics, track and field, basketball, etc.). So what is it exactly and what should you expect to have done about it from your local health care practitioner? Also, what factors should that practitioner be made aware of. First, let’s separate what this injury is and what it is not…
Acute vs. Chronic
In my opinion, most injuries are chronic, even those acute to sub-acute injuries. I first noticed this from working at a clinic where more than ninety percent of all the patients were involved in motor vehicle accident. Every single one of those patients had one of these two injuries (most had both) – Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) and a lower back strain or sprain. They got this from the accident, right? Sure, but it didn’t start then. It came from our very kyphotic lifestyle. People who are in a position like that for HOURS at a time are pretty much guaranteed to get some tightness in the lower back muscles (which was enhanced by the car accident) and tightness in the levator scapular/upper trapezius region (again, enhanced by the accident).
So back to jumper’s knee, this is a CHRONIC issue. Why? Athletes who are constantly putting impact on that knee for hours per week are guaranteed to get some type of injury in the region eventually if they’re not performing proper exercises or perhaps not seeing a great soft tissue specialist of some kind (ART, MAT, Graston, etc) regularly. I emphasize this fact for the reason that many physicians used to (and still to this day) think trauma and overuse are the same thing. If someone hits your the knee with a bat, you have a trauma injury. Problem is in the knee. If you have a chronic injury like Jumper’s knee, I highly doubt much of the problem is in the knee. Chronic injuries are caused by repetitive exposure to mechanical load from the training.
An entire book can probably be written about this subject (and several fantastic books have already been, more on that later) but we’ll keep in short and sweet today. Any kind of “itis” refers to inflammation. A VERY good indicator that you have some type of tendonitis is when you have pain, but after you warm-up, you start to feel a bit better and the pain eventually subsides. Once you’re done training, the pain comes right back, maybe a bit worse. Watch out for this red flag when you’re giving yourself a self-diagnostic.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Factors to Consider
I wanted to include this and I plan to include this a lot in the future. These two factors should be taken into consideration and you should tell your practitioner about them. In the case of jumper’s knee, intrinsic factors would be weakness in the gluteus medius and tightness in the ITB. Extrinsic factors would be the type of surface you’re training on (I’ve seen a LOT of basketball players with Jumper’s knee, they play on a pretty hard court).
What you should start doing NOW?
Start strengthening that gluteus medius. Why strengthen this muscle? We all know about tightness in the ITB and just about everyone in health care (personal trainers, physio, chiro, etc.) all talk about tightness in the ITB and loosening it up with the good old foam roller. There’s something else right above that IT band called your TFL (tensor fascia lata). About 75% of that TFL is made up of your gluteus medius. So it’s a pretty damn important muscle to strengthen. Two fantastic exercises to start with this are the clamshells and the glute med walk (done with a band wrapped around the legs, just above the knees).
I’ve personally tested two hundred pound plus athletes who, by all means should be able to abduct their leg while laying on their side as I hold them down (abduction is one function of the this muscle, hence the purpose of this test). So far, I have yet to test one with a chronic knee injury who has been able to successfully abduct their leg by someone whom’s more than fifty pound lighter holding their leg down statically with ONE arm.
That’s all for today, just starting the sparks on this (fire will catch real soon). Start training!
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