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Close up of man's hands clutching his knee

Easing Knee Pain in Young Athletes

By: Adam S. Mistr, MSEd, ATC, LAT

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome in Young Athletes

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from adolescent athletes is: “My knee hurts.” As an athletic trainer, it’s my responsibility to help young athletes understand why their knees hurt and what we can do to ease that pain.

One of the more common knee ailments is pain in the front of the knee. This is referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome. Pain occurs around the patella, commonly known as the kneecap. Pain may occur during athletic activities such as running, jumping, or squatting. It may also appear during activities of daily living like walking, sitting for a long time, or going up and down stairs. Patellofemoral pain syndrome can arise from abnormal movement of the kneecap. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including anatomical makeup, poor balance, muscle weakness, and muscle tightness. With abnormal movement of the patella comes pain and discomfort. An athletic trainer or physical therapist can assist in correcting this issue.

Ice can be applied to help decrease the pain, but it will not solve the underlying problem. After being evaluated by an athletic trainer or a physical therapist, athletes usually need to start a stretching and strengthening program. Stretching the hips, hamstrings, and quadriceps are crucial to restoring flexibility. Strengthening weaker muscles in the hips and thighs can help the kneecap move in its normal fashion. Correcting any problems with foot movement through exercises and proper shoes is also important. This, in turn, can help decrease inflammation and irritation.

There are multiple taping and bracing options that may be used until the issue is corrected. These options can assist an athlete who needs a little extra support to help decrease persistent pain with athletic activities.

If your adolescent athlete is experiencing knee pain, encourage them to speak with their school athletic trainer or schedule an evaluation with a CHKD sports medicine physician to receive a referral to physical therapy.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.