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A big name for a common knee problem

One very common cause of knee pain has a fancy name, but avoiding it can be quite simple if you follow some important advice.

Chondromalacia is a knee problem that can have a number of different symptoms, including pain. It can your ability to exercise, but even more problematic is that it can interfere with your ability to meet the demands of your military duties.

Here’s the basic rundown on chondromalacia: In a healthy state, the kneecap has soft cartilage beneath that allows the bone to glide smoothly against the other bones of your knee joint. When the smooth surface wears away, the back of the kneecap becomes rough and rubs the other bone surfaces, causing pain. The key to avoiding this condition is maintaining that smooth surface.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, muscle weakness, imbalance, or tightness in the thigh muscles can contribute to chondromalacia. It’s important to maintain strength in your quadriceps and hamstring muscles; follow a strength-training program to develop and maintain strong muscles. Also, make sure that you have enough flexibility in your quads; if the muscles and tendons are too tight, they can force the kneecap to move or “track” incorrectly in the natural groove of your knee joint. If you do a lot of running, make sure your footwear isn’t old and worn, because the shock-absorption of shoes decreases as they age. When it comes to knee pain, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Strengthen and stretch your muscles, and you’ll be on your way to keeping your knees ready for action.

Minimalist running shoes: Do they really prevent injuries?

Barefoot-style running and minimalist running shoes are growing in popularity, but some new research now shows there are risks.

Barefoot-style, or minimalist, running shoes are still growing in popularity in the military, and the debate continues over whether this style of running prevents injuries or just causes different injuries. There is new research on minimalist running shoes (MRS) and their impact on lower leg and foot injury. After a 10-week study, runners who transitioned to Vibram FiveFinger minimalist running shoes showed signs of injury to their foot bones, while the runners who used traditional running shoes showed none. The types of injuries the MRS runners demonstrated were early signs of inflammation, which may or may not be associated with pain or joint dysfunction. If they are, it might be difficult for the runner to know he/she is actually injured until it is too late and the injury has progressed. More research is needed to determine if other factors (weight, running form/style, mileage, running surface) contribute to injuries associated with barefoot-style running. At least one recent study suggests running style may be a factor. For more in-depth information, read HPRC’s InfoReveal.

Get answers to your questions about pain

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
HPRC’s new section on Pain Management includes answers to FAQs about pain.

Most of us will experience pain at some point in our lives, and Warfighters—in training or in theater—are obviously at an even greater risk. For that reason, pain management has become a priority for the military. Committed to being a comprehensive Warfighter resource, HPRC now has pain management information, tools, strategies, and resources. You’ll also find answers to some of the most common questions about pain, including:

  • What is pain?
  • Why do some people tolerate pain better than others?
  • What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
  • What happens if pain becomes chronic?
  • What sorts of things affect my pain?
  • How do the DoD and VHA treat pain?

Take some weight off your knees—or pay the price

A 2012 study demonstrated that an increase in body mass index (BMI) increased a person’s chance of sustaining a non-contact ACL injury.

Being overweight puts you at risk for a whole host of health issues, but most people don’t think about the risk posed to their knees. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the major ligaments of the knee and one of the most susceptible to injury. Injury information on more than 1,600 men and women at the U.S. Naval Academy showed that those with a higher body mass index (BMI) had a greater incidence of ACL tears. A difference in BMI of only 1.2 (25.6 versus 24.4) made the difference between having and not having this kind of injury. (To learn more about BMI, read HPRC's explanation.)

Like the adage “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” knees are something we generally take for granted. To stay on top of your game, you need your knees. An easy way to protect them is to drop the extra weight you’re asking them to carry around.

“MATs”—The future of injury prevention in the military?

The Army hopes to minimize injuries and optimize performance by investing early in the health of its soldiers with Musculoskeletal Action Teams (MATs).

Injury prevention is the key to optimizing soldier-athlete performance, which is why Fort Benning deployed Musculoskeletal Action Teams (MATs) to their 194th Armored Brigade and their 198th Infantry Brigade as part of a two-year pilot study. The MATs consist of physical therapists, physical therapy technicians, athletic trainers, and strength-conditioning coaches. MATs have three main principles: injury prevention, precision PRT, and human performance optimization. The MATs offer basic trainees injury screenings, early treatment of minor injuries, and instruction on proper training technique. Trainees are also given guidance on correct footwear, management skills, and strategies to prevent common exercise mistakes that may lead to injury, as well as briefings on subjects like nutrition and preventative exercises.

The aim of this study is to educate soldier athletes. By learning to manage your own health and fitness, you’re more prepared to complete your mission safely. The goal: You and your fellow soldier athletes should have less need for medical treatment facilities because you’ll be equipped with your own preventative strategies, which you can use throughout your career. This study is also being conducted at Fort Ill, OK, Fort Lee, VA, and Fort Leonard, MO. The study will wrap up in April 2013, at which time the researchers will evaluate the results.

New from HPRC: Pain Management

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
An entirely new section has just been added to HPRC’s Total Force Fitness domain: Pain Management. It includes articles and resources to help Warfighters who need to manage pain—long-term and chronic.

Almost every Warfighter experiences pain at some point in his or her military career, but for many it can be a long or even chronic experience. Sometimes the treatment of pain is relatively straightforward, but at other times it needs a holistic treatment plan. And it’s no longer just a question of taking a pill. The DoD and VHA are exploring a range of alternative treatments for pain, including biofeedback, acupuncture, and various mind-body strategies that have been shown to be promising. HPRC’s new Pain Management section gives you an introduction to a variety of strategies you can do by yourself or with your doctor, and it points you to information and tools to help you understand and deal with your pain.

A pain in the…shin?

Shin splits can sideline you from your regular exercise routine, but proper treatment and rest can get you back in action sooner rather than later.

If you exercise regularly—or plan to start an exercise program—chances are you’ll experience shin splits at least once. That sharp, achy, sore, and/or throbbing feeling that runs down the front of your shin, also known as “tibial stress syndrome,” is a common condition among athletes, especially runners. The pain of shin splits can come from any number of underlying causes, such as overuse injuries, “flat feet,” or a more serious injury—stress fractures—usually from excessive and/or repetitive force on your legs. Usually shin splits will heal on their own with rest and basic self-care treatments, but it’s important to recognize the symptoms early on and to give yourself time to fully heal before easing back into your usual workout. See a doctor if the pain does not seem to improve with rest, if your shin is hot and inflamed, or if the swelling gets worse. To prevent shin splits, make sure that you wear the appropriate shoes for your type of foot, warm up before working out, vary the types of surfaces you run on, and address symptoms of pain early.

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