Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Is It Safe To Play Sports With Knee Pain?

April 30, 2022

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, it is likely you have experienced knee pain at some point. Knee pain is common and affects nearly 25% of adults annually. As with most pain, it can set on acutely, due to a specific injury, or insidiously, due to changes in tissue structure or function over time. Pain sometimes functions like a ‘check engine light’ and can be a healthy deterrent when it comes to activities. In a way this is good, and a message from your body that something needs to be addressed. If you are experiencing constant or daily pain, it can be worthwhile to have your pain evaluated by a Physical Therapist. But what if the pain is less irritable, is it okay to ski, climb, run or play sports with knee pain?

Based on the mechanism of injury and status of the knee structures it can be okay to perform sports on a painful knee. When making this determination it is important to consider the demands of the sport. Most sports place a high demand on the knee to support the participant in starting, stopping and lateral movements. When participating in a sport with these demands it is important that the knee is supported by a balance of muscles surrounding the joint. Unfortunately, when experiencing knee pain our body can automatically decreases the ability to activate muscles around the knee. This is known as muscle inhibition and is a reflexive response where the body decreases its ability to recruit motor units of any muscle surrounding an injured joint. Our body does this as a protective mechanism to avoid further harm to the injured tissues. However, this can lead to development of poor movement patterns and therefore increase the risk of progressive or secondary injury.

To determine if your knee muscles are strong and reliable during knee pain, we recommend performing objective strength testing to compare strength symmetry.

Schedule an evaluation with one of our physical therapist specialists today in Boulder or Lafayette, Colorado to determine if it is safe for you to participate in sports with knee pain.