We all know that time in late august, early September when you dust your boots off and run like an excited 12 year old down to the football field to begin the football season once again. I bet you’ve missed it over summer and are keen to get straight back into business?! The last thing you want is to be one of the sorry souls limping off the pitch with sore knees or one of the brave warriors carrying on like a trooper despite the stabbing knee pain zapping all enjoyment out of the game. Here’s some easy facts to understand along with tips to prevent knee issues affecting you at the start of the season.
1. Knee issues early in the season often come from tendons not tolerating the training load
Knee tendon issues often come from the zero to hero approach - doing no activity for a prolonged period of time, followed by getting straight into a full football schedule. The tendons simply get overloaded and start becoming painful. To prevent this happening to you, find out when your football season is beginning and build up your workout steadily up to that point. Include some resistance training such as squats and lunges, to build up tendon tolerance and strength. Start off with short time periods of running and build up to the demands of playing a full match. Ideally aim to start your season prep at least 4 weeks prior to the season beginning.
2. Once you have developed a tendon injury, it’s not all over
If you do suffer tendon pain, the worst thing you can do is cease all activity and put your feet up for 6 weeks. In fact, doing that will be unlikely to resolve and problem and as soon as you get back to usual training the pain will likely recommence and you’ll be no better off. Tendons need load in order to recover but that load has to be controlled. If you are experiencing tendon pain, try holding a single leg quarter squat for 20 seconds on each leg. Start with 3 sets and build up from there. By using a decline board, you are deliberately overloading the tendon in order to stimulate it’s healing. Build up to 30 second holds after a couple of weeks. Even once pain has eased, this is a sensible exercise to include in a warm up to prevent further issues.
Using contrast bathing (alternating hot and cold compresses) on the tendon can help to increase the circulation and promote healing. Tendons typically have a poor blood supply which is why tendon issues tend to linger so long once you have one. Boosting the supply of fresh blood to the tendon helps the repair and may help to get you back playing pain free sooner. Aim to do this every evening, using the hot compress for 2 mins, followed by 1 minute ice. Complete for around 5 cycles of hot and cold.
3. If in doubt, consult a physio
If you have been managing your own pain for a number of weeks with no improvement in symptoms, its probably time to get some professional help. A physio will be able to confirm whether your pain is coming from the tendon or another area of the knee. They will be able to give you more targeted rehab exercises specific for your needs and may be able to tape your knee to offload the tendon.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Build your training up steadily before the season begins to ensure you have a healthy and pain free season. Happy playing :)