How to Prevent Knee Pain in Teens

My 14-year-old daughter is very active in sports, but lately is complaining her right knee sometimes hurts during practices and games. What can we do?

Knee problems are common for adolescent girls. As you know, their bodies are going through many changes and their knees have to adjust quickly to these changes – including additional height or weight as they grow.  That strain can lead to aches and pains when doing a lot of running or jumping.

Beyond normal aches and pains, several knee problems can affect teens, such as knee cap pain (also called patellofemoral pain) and osteochondritis dissecans, which is an overuse injury to the bone and sometimes cartilage that commonly affects the end of the thigh bone around the knee. In contrast to overuse injuries, sudden knee injuries can occur -- such as injury to the ligaments around the knee. Teenage females are at much higher risk for ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries than teenage males.   

If your daughter’s knee pain is consistently happening, if you notice limping , if she is having to regularly limit her activities, or you have other concerns,  it’s a good idea to have her knee checked out by a physician. The physician can look at the knee, make sure it’s functioning correctly, and offer treatment recommendations.

To help prevent knee pain, your daughter can do several things. The first is to make sure she’s wearing the right kind of shoe. If she’s in a sport like basketball that requires lots of running, make sure it has a lot of cushioning and support. Shoes usually need to be replaced every nine months. Secondly, encourage your daughter to always warm-ups & cool down for games & practices.  Additionally, core (including hip & buttock) strengthening can help her control her body better as she maneuvers through running and jumping activities.

By taking the right steps now, your daughter can stay active with less knee pain.

Erica Kroncke, MD, is a sports medicine physician at ThedaCare Orthopedic Care, who also has experience in pediatrics.