KNEE

Men's Health (Singapore) - - HEALTH -

[TYPE OF JOINT: HINGE]

Four main lig­a­ments bind the thigh­bone (fe­mur) with the shin­bone (tibia) and kneecap (patella). Knees are ver­sa­tile and strong but vul­ner­a­ble to a va­ri­ety of break­downs.

TOP THREAT: AN­TE­RIOR CRU­CI­ATE LIG­A­MENT TEAR WHAT IT IS:

A sprain of the front­most of two lig­a­ments that cross each other (hence cru­ci­ate) in­side the knee. A mild sprain may stretch the lig­a­ment with­out af­fect­ing sta­bil­ity, but more se­vere sprains can par­tially or com­pletely tear it, leav­ing the joint loose and likely to fur­ther dam­age the knee’s car­ti­lage.

CAUSE:

Ex­ces­sive force from piv­ot­ing in a pickup bas­ket­ball game, jump­ing to spike a vol­ley­ball, or col­lid­ing with some­thing much larger than you. That’s why ACL tears are com­mon among ath­letic younger men.

TREAT­MENT:

Surgery is usu­ally needed, es­pe­cially if you want to play sports again. Most ACLs can’t be stitched to­gether, so the sur­geon usu­ally takes a graft of your patella or ham­string ten­don (or a ca­daver ten­don) and uses it as scaf­fold­ing to re­con­struct the lig­a­ment.

DE­FENSE:

Stronger leg mus­cles make knee joints more sta­ble. To strengthen yours, do these three ex­er­cises in a se­ries: walk­ing lunges (3 sets of 10 reps), Rus­sian ham­strings (kneel on the floor with a part­ner hold­ing your an­kles, then lean for­ward with a straight back for 3 sets of 10 reps), and sin­gle toe raises (30 reps each leg). For a com­plete kneep­ro­tec­tion plan, visit health.usf. edu and search for the PEP pro­gram from the Santa Mon­ica Sports Medicine Re­search Foun­da­tion. It pro­vides a 15- to 20-minute reg­i­men that in­cludes the leg ex­er­cises out­lined here, plus warm-ups, stretches, strength­en­ing ex­er­cises and ply­o­met­rics that sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce ACL in­juries in ath­letes.

FU­TURE-PROOF YOUR KNEES:The

force­ful move­ments that cause ACL tears can also dam­age the menis­cus, a rub­bery car­ti­lage wedge that pro­vides cush­ion­ing in­side the knee. Nor­mal ag­ing also weak­ens the car­ti­lage, so just get­ting up from a crouch (or couch!) can tear an older knee. “We see it a lot in base­ball catch­ers, plumbers, and car­pet lay­ers— any­body who torques their knees for a liv­ing,” says Dr. DiNu­bile. The afore­men­tioned leg-strength­en­ing PEP pro­gram for pro­tect­ing the ACL is a good de­fence here, too.

WATCH OUT!

Un­less their menis­cus tears are due to trauma such as a sports in­jury or fall, peo­ple who un­dergo a par­tial menis­cec­tomy do no bet­ter than those re­ceiv­ing sham surgery or phys­i­cal ther­apy, ac­cord­ing to re­cent stud­ies. “If you’re over 50, when a torn menis­cus is prob­a­bly de­gen­er­a­tive, you’re likely bet­ter off with phys­i­cal ther­apy and maybe cor­ti­sone in­jec­tions,” Dr. Sen­nett says.

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