Monday, January 21, 2008

Injury Prevention 101, Patellar Injury

This is the first of what I hope is a very occasional series of injury prevention tips, based on personal experience.  By showing you all how incredibly stupid I am, I may prevent you from doing the same.  But you probably aren't that idiotic anyways, so maybe I'm doing this more to ensure, through public self-humiliation, that I don't demonstrate the same stupidity again.

Protecting Your Patella

The patella, otherwise known as your kneecap, is that nummular bone on the anterior of your knee joint. I think it slides up and down as your knee bends. I didn't invent this nifty bone, so I won't pretend to be an expert on it. All I will say, is that messing it up, the bursa overlying it, or the cartilage underneath it, tends to make walking or running downhill or down stairs painful, since 7 times your body weight is born by it when you descend. Here is a link to a popular web article on the patella, by Jonathan Cluett, MD.

So, if you are a trail ultrarunner staying for a week in a tropical resort in say Mexico, and you find that any running you do is limited to short expanses of sandy beach, so that to get a long run in, you go back and forth on a 6 mile paved bike path from your hotel, trying to stay on the grass, but that after several days of this, you get sick of the path and decide to go the other direction, where there is no path and end up running on sidewalks, up and down hotel driveways, through outdoor shopping malls and parking lots, and then you see a roped barrier at the end of a parking lot and you decide it's too much trouble to run around it and it's not high at all anyways.

When you find yourself in front of a rope barrier and decide to jump over it,


You will either clear the rope or you don't. If you don't, it's not like you will hit the rope with your chest or something and bounce back and land on your butt. What more likely will happen is you will snag one of your feet on the rope and your whole body will slam down on the concrete at the other side. You will probably land on a combination of the following body parts: face, arm/s, knee/s. In my case this past Saturday, I landed hardest on my left knee.  If my patella isn't fractured, its associated soft tissue is really pissed off at me.

Although it doesn't hurt at rest now, I'm finding it still very painful to walk down steps, much less run faster than a relatively slow 10 minutes per mile on a level surface (attempted cautiously the next morning).

This could present problems if it doesn't get better soon. Like before my first race in less than 2 weeks.  Or maybe I will get a lingering reactive arthritis, that will screw me up in my longer races.

Skinny Asian runner will take a few notes on this guy,  Liu Xiang, the 2004 gold medalist who set a new 110 meter hurdles world record in July 2006 by 0.03 seconds.  If not blessed with his hurdling talent, I will try the angry scowl.  (Better yet, I will skip this type of cross training.)


Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...

Sorry to hear that you got injured on your patellar. I'll be careful in my usual jumping over a rope at the end of my lunch time run around my company. I sometimes had a concern that my sore legs might get trapped with the 2 ft high rope.

Having enjoyed rest for over a month due to a mild stress fracture (Yeah, I really enjoy the time with my family prior to my race season in a few months), I know that getting injured is much worse than being under-trained.

Hope you get well soon. May I see you this Sat at Fremont Fat Ass listed in your schedule? Perhaps just show up and jog with me slow poke with your knees allowed.

Yours truly,


Rajeev said...


I am truly sorry to learn that your patella is hurt. Take heart. You are super fit and you will heal faster than most humans. In the meantime, find a nice warm pool and do deep water running. Here is a site with info:

Good luck.


Donald said...

OK, man - I finished the tag post you sent. Happy reading.

Good luck with a speedy recovery for the knee. Do you know any good doctors? Or have access to any meds? Maybe you should visit an ER somewhere.

willgotthardt said...

I'm bringing a thick braided rope to Ohlone 50K.

Get well.

Will G.