The term “overuse” injury refers to the effects of repeated, minor trauma to the knee joint. This trauma may result from recreational or competitive running, or jumping as a sport or as part of a sport, such as in basketball. The injury occurs gradually, and symptoms may not interfere with the performance of the activity at first. When symptoms do appear, they are usually noticed within 24 hours of performing the activity that is producing trauma to the knee. These symptoms may include a dull ache, a specific type of discomfort when the joint is moved a certain way, such as a burning sensation or shooting pain, and sometimes pain when the affected area is touched or pressure is applied to the leg. Pain may be accompanied by swelling.
Resting the knee and using first aid measures, such as elevation and ice therapy, may bring relief. However, you should consult an orthopedic specialist if you cannot change your activities to rest the knee or if symptoms persist. In some cases, your activities can be modified to lessen the trauma on the affected knee, or special equipment may be used to provide additional support to the joint.The orthopedic specialist can help prevent a recurrent injury by prescribing exercises to improve the strength and mobility of the affected knee and its supporting structures.
Click on one of the types of “overuse” injuries listed below:
Iliotibial band syndrome is an inflammatory condition that is most often described as an overuse injury. It is caused by friction (rubbing) of a portion or “band” of a tendon over the outer bone, the lateral condyle, of the knee. It can result from a direct blow to the knee, however, it is most often caused by a period of overuse in participating in a particular sport.
The symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome include an aching or burning sensation at the side of the knee while participating in the activity that is causing the condition. Pain also may radiate from the knee upward along the thigh. There may be a sensation of a “snap” when the knee is moved through its normal range of motion, even though the range of motion may not be affected. Usually there is no swelling. The pain may disappear if the activity is reduced. A program of muscle-strengthening and re-conditioning exercises may also be prescribed. Surgery is not often required, however, it may be recommended when the problem does not respond to other measures.
Plica syndrome occurs when bands of synovial tissue, called plicae, become irritated by overuse or injury. Plicae are the remnants of tissue that normally disappear during fetal development as the synovial capsule is formed. When this process is not complete, the plicae remain within the knee, and the knee is vulnerable to chronic overuse and inflammation. The symptoms of plica syndrome include pain and swelling, a “clicking” sensation, and a “locking” or weakness of the knee. Plica syndrome is often misdiagnosed because of its similarity to other knee conditions. First aid measures may be effective in reducing the inflammation, and re-conditioning exercises may be prescribed to strengthen the supporting muscles.
Cortisone injection may be helpful in some cases, and an arthroscopic procedure may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and further treat the condition. Surgical correction of the abnormality may be recommended if other measures do not provide lasting relief.
Osgood-Schlatter disease is seen most often in young people who are active in sports. It is characterized by pain below the knee, especially during running and jumping and may be accompanied by a sizeable, hard “bump” below the knee cap. It is caused by repetitive impact or trauma to the growth plate of the upper tibia, called the apophysis, and indicates an inflammatory process involving the tendons and ligaments supporting the knee-tibia connection. The problem may also occur as a result of an acute injury to the tendon and may include a splintering of bone fragments at the site of injury.
The symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease include knee pain that worsens during activity and then may lessen during rest. The bump below the knee may be especially painful when pressure is applied. Knee function is not usually affected by the problem, but the condition may persist until the individual is fully grown. First aid measures may be helpful when there is a “flare up” of symptoms, and it may be recommended to “sit out” a season to rest the joint and growth plate of the tibia. A knee brace and rigorous attention to the RICE formula may be helpful if quitting sports is not an acceptable alternative.