I just got done working with a great group of U16 Select Softball girls to help them develop athletic fitness, core stability, leg strength, speed and agility. I love working with these types of clients, as they are motivated to do the best they can. In that world, the dream of college scholarships can be a real financial savior for their parents, and offering an awesome adventure for the young athletes.
Upon working with them for a session the very first time, I immediately spotted a problem I have seen many times before. It isn't a problem that is rare anymore. It is becoming more and more common, among athletes and non-athletes alike, among young and old, among men and women. I'm not sure why, but I have some guesses.
I'm talking about knee pain, chronic knee conditions, and knee cap "floating", or tracking problems, stemming from physiological and muscular imbalances.
It used to be that many of these knee pain problems were isolated to girls in their teenage years, and certain ethnicities had higher probabilities of developing the problem. This may still be true, but it seems I am running into it all over the place over the last five years.
It made me a little self conscious, but as a teenager, I had serious knee problems too. The doctors told me only girls got it and it was extremely rare with boys. Boy did that make me feel better. Being a teenager is tough enough!
I first had pain and then eventually dislocated my knee cap in middle school wrestling, which ended my varsity career. I came back another year and did it to the other knee to prove it. Then it happened again and again in other sports like basketball and baseball, so I know how frustrating this can be for a young athlete. I was a three-to-four sport athlete, and found myself in crutches for over half the school year... Twice!
The doctor told me that without surgery I would never run or jump again. I was crushed.
I knew I didn't want surgery, since at the time, the results didn't look good. They are much better at these procedures now, of course.
After years of struggling with this, multiple knee cap dislocations and sub-laxations, I was fed up and started studying the knee on my own in search of answers. The doctors and physical therapists I knew at the time didn't help me as much as I wanted, so I searched everywhere and tried many things. After a lot of trial and error, I found what worked best for me and I am going to share it here in a few videos.
I am not an M.D., but as a 13+ year certified personal trainer with hundreds of personal training sessions with injured people, I do know this helped me and my clients immensely. I eventually was not only able to run and jump, but I never did get surgery and used physical rehabilitation to all but conquer the problem, making my life far more enjoyable and functional.
The problem is knee pain around the patella, or knee cap. Sometimes it manifests in popping or clicking during flexion and extension of the knee. Sometimes it is a rubbing of the knee cap on the femur, especially the lateral (outside) area of the knee, that turns to grinding and the wearing down of cartilage. Sometimes the pain is underneath the knee cap, and sometimes it is below the knee altogether in the form of what has been called Osgood–Schlatter disease.
This last one is common among teen girls. Osgood–Schlatter disease or syndrome (also known as Apophysitis of the tibial tubercle, or knobby knees) is an irritation of the patellar ligament at the tibial tuberosity. It is characterized by painful lumps just below the knee and is most often seen in young adolescents. Risk factors may include overzealous conditioning (running and jumping), but adolescent bone growth is at the root of it. Improper form can be a huge contributor.
Another common one is "infrapatellar syndrome", which is an umbrella term covering a whole host of knee cap-related pain problems. Pain can be on top of the knee cap or underneath it, or to the inside (medial side) of the knee, usually due to a muscular imbalance. This means some muscles are overpowering weaker muscles, or over-tight muscles are pulling on overstretched muscles and ligaments.
First I go over the strength exercises here:
Next, I go over some uncommon stretches that work wonders:
Finally, I give you some band stretches to take it to another level:
Will this help your knee pain or knee problem? If you've been looking for some quick fixes for common patella pain and the associated chronic problems associated with it, this might be worth a shot. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
It's not about the (good) pain, it's about the progress!
More from my friend Dave "The Band Man" Schmitz: