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Weekend warriors cram all the activities they don't have time for during the work week into a short weekend. Too much activity at once may put you at risk for knee injuries.


Common sports-related knee injuries

What is an ACL injury?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) attaches the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). The ACL stabilizes the knee and prevents the shin bone from moving too far forward on the thigh bone. Weekend warriors who play sports such as basketball, football, skiing, and soccer, are at high risk for ACL injuries. Lack of practice, overuse, and poor flexibility can lead to ACL injuries. The ACL is prone to injury when the weekend warrior comes to a quick stop combined with a direction change, pivots, lands from a jump, or overextends the knee.


How is it treated?

Some ACL injuries can be treated with physical therapy to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Depending on the situation, surgery might be needed to repair your ACL injury. If you need surgery, it may take at least 3 to 4 months of therapy to return to sports.


What is an MCL injury?

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is a tough band of tissue that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. A blow to the outside of the knee when the foot is planted usually injures the MCL. Weekend warriors are at risk for this during football games or during soccer games if struck on the instep while passing the ball.


How is it treated?

Some MCL injuries can be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help relieve pain. The knee should be iced for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours; a bandage wrap or knee sleeve can be used, as well as crutches, until you can bear weight on your leg without pain. More severe injuries require surgery and physical therapy. Return to play depends on how severe the MCL injury is and ranges from 10 days to 6 weeks.


What is a meniscal injury?

A meniscal injury can occur on the inside or outside of the knee. This is one of the most common knee problems seen in weekend warriors. Meniscal tears may happen after twisting or changing position while the knee is bent.


How is it treated?

Small, stable meniscal tears can be treated with RICE and NSAIDs. Most small tears will heal themselves over 6 weeks to 3 months. Physical therapy will be needed to strengthen quadriceps and hamstring muscles. In some cases, surgery will be needed to repair meniscal injuries.


What is tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis, or "jumper's knee," is caused by stress on the patellar or quadriceps tendon while jumping. It is common in weekend warriors who participate in basketball, volleyball, or high or long jumping. Weekend warriors are at risk for tendonitis if they are out of practice, have poor flexibility, or if they repeatedly jump.


How is it treated?

If you suffer from tendonitis, limit any jumping or squatting. Ice your knee for 20 minutes, 4 to 6 times a day, especially after activity. Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen muscles. A patella tendon strap and a course of NSAIDs as directed can help knee pain.


What is IT band friction syndrome?

The iliotibial (IT) band is a thick muscle-tendon band that runs along the outside of the upper leg from the hip to the outside of the knee. IT band friction syndrome is an overuse injury. Inflammation of the IT band can cause burning or stinging during running or other sports.


How is it treated?

Treatment includes rest, ice, NSAIDs, and physical therapy. Custom-made orthotics for your shoes can also help. If this does not work, corticosteroid injections are an option. Usually weekend warriors can return to play in 6 weeks, but you should return slowly.


What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or "runner's knee", is activity-related knee pain. It is the most common running injury due to overuse. The pain is commonly located at the front of the knee cap.

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How is it treated?

If you have runner's knee, you should avoid jumping, squatting, and kneeling. Ice should be applied for 10 to 15 minutes, 4 to 6 times a day, particularly after activity. Physical therapy should focus on muscle stretching and strengthening. Also, proper footwear, orthotics, NSAIDs, taping, and an elastic knee sleeve can help with pain.



Weekend warriors should prepare the body during the week for intense weekend activity. Jogging or walking for 20 or 30 minutes during your lunch hour can help keep muscles engaged. Warming up and stretching before intense activity will help flexibility. After a few minutes of warm-up, stretch the legs, holding each stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat each stretch three or four times. Take breaks during activity to rest and hydrate the body.


Overuse is one of the most common reasons weekend warriors injure their knees. It is important to know your fitness level and not over-exercise. Listen to your body and stop when you feel pain. Following these simple tips can help you enjoy your favorite sports in a healthy and safe way.


Risk factors for sports injuries


* poor physical fitness


* failure to warm-up


* intensity of competition


* collision and contact sports participation


* overuse of joints


Did you know?

If you can't find time to workout during the week, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car a few blocks from work, or get up from your desk every 20 minutes to walk around.