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Wrestling Knee Injuries

Knee injuries constitute a significant number of all injuries in the sport of wrestling. The most common of these knee injuries are: prepatellar bursitis, ligament sprains, and meniscal tears. This guide will discuss the symptoms and treatment of these injuries, as well as what you can do to protect yourself from them. Injuries are an unfortunate part of wrestling, but a little knowledge could be the difference between competing and sitting out your next match.

Ligament Sprains

Anatomy of the kneeThere are four ligaments that are particularly important to the function of the knee. The most common ligaments that are damaged during wrestling are the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).

The MCL is found on the inside of the knee joint, and connects the tibia (thigh bone) to the femur (shin bone). The ACL connects these same bones but is positioned diagonally within the knee. The severity of ligament sprains varies greatly, and can range from a very minor tear to a complete tear of the ligament. These ligaments are extremely crucial to the function of the knee, helping to keep the knee stable and within a normal range of motion.

Symptoms

Here are the typical symptoms of an MCL or ACL sprain:

  • Swelling
  • Looseness or loss of strength in the injured knee
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion

Being able to recall any specific incident, such as a hit or blow to the knee, is helpful in determining the exact problem and the severity of the injury. Pivoting or twisting motions can also sometimes cause ligament sprains. In the case of serious ligament injuries, you may hear a cracking or popping sound as well.

Treatment

Even if you do not know the severity of your injury, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is the best initial treatment method. Consult your athletic trainer or doctor before you decide to take any further course of action.

First, refrain from any drills or other activities that aggravate your knee. This will not only limit pain but also help to prevent further injury. If swelling is apparent, apply a compression bandage to reduce it. If your sprain is minor, you will probably be able to return to the mat after a few days of recovery.

If your symptoms persist, see your doctor to determine the problem. The doctor may take an x-ray or MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Reconstructive surgery may be required for serious cases, with several months of rehabilitation required afterward.

Prevention

The best way to prevent any injury is with a good warm-up and stretching routine before and after you work out. Warming your body up to the point where you are sweating is absolutely necessary before stretching. Focus on your lower body and work in any exercises or stretches that require you to balance on your legs. Don’t cut warm-ups short just for the sake of time.

A strength training routine designed to develop your quads and hamstrings is another way to help prevent knee injuries. By strengthening your legs you will be more resilient to certain types of impact.

Also, be aware of your surroundings when wrestling in practice or warming up before a competition. Most knee injuries don’t occur during a match, but rather as a result of a hit or other impact due to a crowded practice situation.

Prepatellar Bursitis

Side view of kneePrepatellar bursitis, or sometimes known as “housemaid’s knee,” is an injury due to a sudden blow to the front of the knee, or sometimes as a result of long-term aggravation that irritates and inflames the bursa sac located at the front of the knee.

Bursae are thin, fluid-filled sacks found in all joints that help to lubricate muscles, tendons, and skin tissues, allowing them to move and slide over bones without causing friction. The prepatellar bursa is most commonly associated with knee injuries in wrestling because it is located at the front of the knee where most of the impact is taken during takedowns and other movements. When there is trauma to the bursa sac, it fills with blood, causing swelling around the kneecap.

Symptoms

In some cases, individuals may not experience pain if the knee is not irritated, but kneeling and/or putting pressure on the knee may become extremely painful. Other symptoms characteristic of prepatellar bursitis include:

  • “Watery” swelling of the kneecap
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion
  • Bruising

Treatment

First, you must absolutely stay away from whatever activity is causing the irritation to your knee. In wrestling, shooting takedowns on this knee and wrestling in the bottom position are all major causes of irritation. Even if you do not know the severity of your injury, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is the best initial treatment method. Consult your athletic trainer or doctor before you decide to take any further course of action.

Minor cases may only need rest and compression in order to reduce swelling. For more serious cases, the bursa sac will typically need to be drained. This is a minor procedure and can be done by your personal physician. Depending on the severity of the injury, wrestlers may need to rest the knee for anywhere from several days up to several weeks, sometimes with rehabilitation.

If the bursa continues to accumulate fluid and cause the knee to swell, additional surgery may be needed to completely remove the bursa sac, but this is not common. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to help prevent infection.

Prevention

The best way to prevent bursitis is to wear kneepads during practices and competitions. Kneepads will help to limit the stress on the knee, and reduce the force of any direct impact to the front of the knee. Keep in mind that wearing kneepads may not prevent all cases.

If certain drills or types of movement are especially aggravating to your knees, make it a point to loosen up and stretch them out. This will help to limit prolonged irritation of your knees.

Meniscal Tears

The meniscus is a “C”-shaped disc made of tough cartilage and is very important for absorbing shock between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). Most injuries to the meniscus occur from a hit or other direct trauma to the knee. Sudden turning or twisting motions of the knee may also cause a tear. Meniscal tears can also occur over longer periods of time, but this is rarely seen in the sport of wrestling.

Symptoms

Meniscal tears can often be very painful, and some individuals find they are unable to walk with this injury. Other symptoms characteristic of a meniscal tear:

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Looseness or loss of strength in the injured knee

Treatment

Even if you do not know the severity of your injury, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is the best initial treatment method. Consult your athletic trainer or doctor before you decide to take any further course of action.

First, refrain from any drills or other activities that aggravate your knee. If swelling is apparent, apply a compression bandage to reduce it. If the injury is minor, you will probably be able to return to the mat after a few days or weeks of rest and recovery. If your symptoms persist you may need to see your doctor.

Your doctor may take an x-ray or MRI to determine the severity of the injury. Serious meniscal tears typically require one of two types of surgery: Meniscus repair or meniscectomy. These respective procedures repair the tear or completely remove the torn portion of the ligament. It may take some wrestlers 6-8 months to fully recover after surgery.

Prevention

The best way to prevent any injury is with a good warm-up and stretching routine before and after you work out. Warming your body up to the point where you are sweating is absolutely necessary before stretching. Focus on your lower body, and don’t cut your routine short just to save time. A strength training routine designed to develop the muscles in your legs will go a long way in helping make your knees more resilient to certain types of impact.

Also, be aware of your surroundings when wrestling in practice or warming up before a competition; many injuries in wrestling come from groups of wrestlers colliding with one another while practicing.

Take Care of Yourself

How you take care of yourself will be the most crucial factor in your recovery time, so don’t let injuries take you out of practices or matches. Now that you’re armed with some knowledge about the most common injuries in wrestling, hopefully you can prevent them from happening to you. Keep training hard and do whatever you can to keep your body at 100 percent!

Knee injuries are among the most common types of injuries in wrestling. Check out this guide to learn more about these injuries, as well as how to prevent and treat them.
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