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Are you weak at the knees?

Our love of extreme sports and the government-led healthy lifestyle push, coupled with growing clinical obesity and a rapidly ageing population, have all contributed to Britain's growing epidemic of knee injuries.

"Without appropriate medical care, a knee injury can affect the rest of a person's life ( it is, after all, the most complex joint in the human body and we should look after it," warns John King, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and eminent knee specialist.

"The knee joint is particularly vulnerable because it is not a joint that is held together by the shape of the bones at all," he explains.

"The lower end of the thigh bone is really two small balls sitting on the rather flat surface of the top of the shin bone and that offers no intrinsic stability and, therefore, the joint depends very much on the ligaments, tendons and muscles around it.

"In addition to that, there are two very long levers ( the shin bone and the thigh bone exerting their loads on the joint.

"The final problem is the tiny little kneecap on the front ( this rubs against the lower end of the thigh bone, and the amount of surface in contact varies with the amount the knee is bent, but never represents the whole area of the kneecap, which is probably not much bigger than a 50p coin."

Such a vulnerable system can be knocked off balance very easily by intrinsic factors such as excessive bow legs or knock-knees; people whose joints move more than they should, particularly where the knee can bend backwards (hyperextension); people who have a slightly stiff hip; and those whose feet go flat when running (pronation), according to King.

"The joint is also vulnerable from increased training loads, and overloading the joint between the kneecap and the front of the thigh bone can produce pain," he adds.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2007
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