The knee is one of the most complex yet delicate joints in the body. One in five Americans suffer from knee pain of some sort, and triathletes are especially vulnerable to knee injuries.
Common Knee Injuries During Triathlons
Overuse injuries account for most of the injuries during triathlons. The triathlon cycle-run transition (T2) is a period of particular risk for knee and lower back injury.
Here are common types of triathlete knee injuries:
- Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome
A piercing pain or tight feeling on the outside of the knee just below the joint caused by the flaring up of the IT band. It happens when you increase your speed or distance too quickly. As you bend and straighten your knee, friction between the femur and the IT band causes a strain at the knee.
- Patellar Tendonitis
If you feel pain in the center of your knee, just below the kneecap, you could have this. You generally feel it when you’ve been sitting for a long time or when walking up and down steps.
It happens when the quadriceps muscle in front of your thigh becomes tight or swollen and pulls the kneecap against the joint. The main cause for triathletes is an improper bike fit.
- Runner’s Knee
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or runner’s knee is common among runners, but can happen to anyone. Symptoms of this condition are pain in front of your kneecap, and difficulty when walking, bending, squatting or even getting up from a chair and walking up or down stairs are symptoms of this condition.
- Overuse and high stress to the knee
- Direct hits like a fall or bumping your knee into something.
- Misalignment of bones
- Problems in the feet like overpronation, fallen arches, and hypermobile feet
- Tight or weak quadriceps as a result of poor running or biking mechanics
- Condromalacia patella
Let’s look at how we can strengthen a vital yet delicate part of our body.
How to Strengthen Knees With Exercises
Strengthening exercises for your quads, hips, and glutes are perhaps one of the most important ways you can look after your knees. Even if you have perfectly healthy knees, you can start these exercises to prevent injuries later on. They stabilize the knee joint. Here are a few popular ones:
- Leg Lifts: If you have strong, stabilized hips you can prevent strain on your IT band. To do this exercise, you lie sideways with your elbow to support you. Lift your leg up a foot off the ground and bring it down slowly. You can do 20-30 reps on each side.
- Lunges: Great for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. There are various types of lunges you can do – reverse lunges, lateral lunges and walking lunges are some variations beneficial for knees.
- Glute Bridges: Ideal for strengthening weak muscles in your glutes. To do this exercise, you need to lie down on your back with your hands next to you, palms face down. Raise your hips towards the ceiling and bring them down slowly. Repeat 10-15 times.
Building strength and flexibility go hand in hand. Stretching out tired and sore muscles can not only prevent injuries, but also help in relieving pain. Try these four stretches:
- Figure of Four: When you stretch the muscles that help rotate the hips, you ease the knees. A great way to stretch the piriformis muscle as well as the glutes is to do the figure of four stretch. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor. Cross your left ankle over your right knee while holding the back of your right thigh. Pull your right knee in towards your chest gently. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- IT Band Foam Roller: The illiotibial band runs down the outside of your thigh, all the way from the hip to the shin. Tightness in this ligament causes knee issues. Using a foam roller helps reduce stiffness and soreness. Foam roll from the side of the outer thigh to just above the knee.
- Hamstring Stretch: Hamstrings run from the hips to the knees and cross the knees. Stretching these helps alleviate knee pain and increase flexibility. Do hamstring stretches lying on your back. Wrap a belt around the ball of one of your feet and lift that leg straight up till it is almost at a right angle with the ground.
- Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch: Stretching hip flexors and quads is simple and easy. If you can’t do it standing up, lie down on your stomach and attempt it using a belt or yoga strap to pull your foot towards your butt.
At Just Wetsuits, we believe triathletes need to take care of their body and prepare it for the race. Being in good shape before a race is absolutely essential. During the race, good gear and accessories are just as important. They help you run comfortably so you are less likely to get injured.
Check out our high quality wetsuits for triathletes at every stage of the sport.