Cody Mansfield's picture

A Story On Knee Pain From Soccer

In my last year of college soccer I developed a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. During games it worsened over time and my performance suffered. There was no trauma that caused the injury so I was confused as to why at the end of my soccer career I was developing this knee pain. Was I getting too old? I did what most athletes do when they are in pain, I bit my lip and played through it. No one could figure out the problem with my knee, but as I have honed my clinical skills I have reflected on that injury.  


Before the season started I sprained my ankle during a small-sided match with my team. I was going to shoot the soccer ball on goal when a defender kicked my foot as hard as he could.  A few weeks before the start of my last collegiate soccer season my right ankle was compromised.  In addition to this injury, my right hip was higher than the left. I had what is referred to as a “hip hike”. The athletic trainers could not figure out why I had this sharp knee pain. My meniscus was fine, my lateral collateral ligament was strong, and I was stretching the muscles that crossed the knee joint.  


Differential Causes of the knee pain

-Unresolved ankle sprain

-Lack of core/hip stability

-Playing too much soccer

-Tight iliotibial (IT) band


I now believe the cause of my sharp knee pain was due to my knee compensating for an unresolved ankle injury and perhaps a lack of core/hip stability. I do not think it was from playing too much soccer because if that were the case, then my left knee should have had a similar sharp pain. In addition to ruling that cause out, I do not think the pain was due to IT band tightness because I was diligent about stretching my IT band.


The hip and ankle control the knee.  An athlete can present with knee pain and be perplexed why the medical professional is focusing on rehabilitation exercises for the hip, abdominal muscles, or ankle.  Although there might be no pain in the hip or ankle, these joints can stress the knee, which compensates, then causes pain.  The knee is overworking to restore normal function.  


In hindsight, I wish I had completely resolved my ankle injury and performed hip and core stability exercises. Often times you become so focused on where an athlete has pain that you forget to look at what is actually causing the pain.  The sharp knee pain significantly limited my performance in my last year of soccer and perhaps the core/hip stability exercises on 90 strong could have helped with my knee pain.



Questions? Remarks? Have a similar injury? What exercises would you recommend? What do you think caused my knee pain?  


Feel free to comment on this article to inspire a discussion.  


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