The knees are your best (and worst) joint. Period. Injure your knees and you're SOL — you also risk developing osteoarthritis down the line if you come back to racing too soon, or don't take proper rehab precautions. The good news? If you're a lucky one who hasn't torn an ACL, MCL, or PCL, (or if you're recovering from a tear) there are a few exercises you can (and should!) do on a regular basis to stabilize your knees. The goal? To keep your knees limber and mobile as you train hard and tackle obstacles on the course. Think: accidents can happen, but prevention is key.
One thing to be mindful of is not coming back to obstacle racing too soon after an injury without taking proper precautions. “Overuse injuries occur in the muscles and tendons and are probably more common in Spartan Racers,” says Dr. Michael Fredericson, Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Stanford University Medical Center. “Returning to high-intensity athletics from an overuse injury too early won’t necessarily predispose you to arthritis, but if you have a ligament tear, those are usually traumatic. Coming back from one of those too soon can cause arthritic problems because of the unstabilized and unequal forces on your knee.”
Dr. Fredericson’s research focuses on the etiology, prevention, and treatment of overuse sports injuries in athletes. He’s the Head Team Physician for the Stanford Track & Field and Swimming Teams, was a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Physician, and has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles as well as four books focused on an improved understanding and treatment strategies for overuse injuries in athletes. He recommends that athletes do regular exercises to prevent injuries by stabilizing their knees and keeping them limber and mobile as they train hard to tackle obstacles on the course.
The M.D. Recommended Exercise for Knee Pain: Squats
“The best exercise for this is probably going to be squats,” Fredericson says. “Even bodyweight [squats are] fine. Once you’re comfortable with this and have good form doing double leg squats, you’ll want to progress to single leg. You don’t need to go all the way down or very far — only 35 degrees or so — but controlling your body into that first 30 degrees of knee flexion is really critical.” If you’re unstable in this movement, he warns, that’s where many knee issues develop. After this, he says, progress to single leg hops, landing solid with good form and without the knee caving in.
Don’t Make these Common Squat Mistakes
According to Dr. Fredericson, there are two errors that athletes typically make with their squats. Generally, athletes tend to overshoot their posture leaning too far forward with the spine, which can cause an unequal transfer of weight into opposing muscle groups, not getting the desired results of knee-strengthening bang for buck you want. Additionally, knee alignment is key. Ensure your knees are not tracking inward or outward, and instead remain at 90 degrees and straight out from the hip to get the max strengthening benefits in your squat.
Squat Tip #1: Stay Back
When the knees go too far forward in a squat, that typically means you’re using more quads and not enough glutes. Your butt should be going back more than your knees are going forward.
Squat Tip #2: Stay Straight
When the knee starts to cave inward while squatting, that typically means the femur is starting to collapse medially, which is not good for muscular and joint balance and can exacerbate injuries more than help them
“For someone who is more of an endurance racer, what they want to do is really build up endurance of the muscles,” says Fredericson. “Bodyweight is fine, but they want to build up to 20-30 reps in three sets. The idea is to keep getting strong as the muscles get fatigued.”
In addition to this exercise, and in combination with cross training, there are also many non-surgical treatment options clinically proven to help successfully manage mild to moderate knee OA symptoms over time — especially if your pain becomes too severe to compete or stay active. Hyaluronic acid injections, like DUROLANE injections, can help mitigate pain from osteoarthritis and support you as you continue your physical activity.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not doctors. It’s imperative you consult yours before moving ahead with what’s right for you.
DUROLANE is indicated for the treatment of pain in osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conservative non-pharmacological therapy or simple analgesics, e.g., acetaminophen.
Do not inject DUROLANE in patients with knee joint infections, skin diseases, or other infections in the area of the injection site. Do not administer to patients with known hypersensitivity or allergy to sodium hyaluronate preparations. Risks can include transient pain or swelling at the injection site.
DUROLANE has not been tested in pregnant or lactating women, or children.
Full prescribing information can be found in product labeling, or at www.durolane.com or by contacting Bioventus Customer Service at 1-800-836-4080.
DUROLANE is a registered trademark of Bioventus LLC.