Your Knee Hurts After Playing Soccer

If you're totally immersed in the world of soccer, you're probably aware that soccer knee injuries are an occupational hazard of this fast-paced sport. If you're unlucky enough to experience one, a quick diagnosis and targeted treatment plan can help put you on the road to recovery.

Knee pain can hamper playing soccer.
Credit: Ian Spanier/Image Source/GettyImages

Determine Soccer Knee Pain Cause

Coping with knee pain and dodgy knees is like going about your daily routine with a nagging headache. Sometimes, the discomfort lurks in the background, and it's merely a minor annoyance that doesn't slow you down much.

Without warning, however, you might experience an intense twinge of pain that stops you in your tracks. Maybe the pain accompanies a medical condition, such as arthritis or gout. Or, perhaps you tore delicate cartilage or ruptured a fragile ligament by playing a very physical sport, such as soccer.

Just like any other pain, finding the cause is the first step to resolving the issue, notes the Mayo Clinic. First, the source of the problem often determines the pain's severity. Dodgy knees injuries typically exhibit varied symptoms, and they might not all be present.

When examining your knee, you may notice that it's red, swollen and warm to the touch. The knee can also feel stiff, and you just can't seem to straighten it completely. Crunching or popping sounds, and a sense that the knee is a bit unstable, are also common symptoms.

Contact your physician if the knee appears extremely swollen, and you're unable to put any weight on it. If you're experiencing extreme pain, and your knee is obviously injured or even deformed, seek medical assistance immediately. If your knee pain and swelling are accompanied by a fever, that's also a good reason to summon professional help.

Read more: Knee Pain on the Outside of the Knee

Most Common Soccer Injury

Soccer is a fast-paced, high-energy sport that has attracted thousands of avid players throughout the world. During each soccer match, players aggressively engage in repeated drives to score a goal or defend the goal from opposing players. Both missions require a combination of speed and explosive force.

Not surprisingly, injuries frequently result from players' twist, turns, collisions and falls throughout the course of a match. According to the University of Rochester Medicine, players most often experience lower extremity injuries and knee pain after playing soccer.

If you've overstressed a muscle or tendon, unexpectedly twisted your knee, or been the unlucky recipient of a hard blow to the leg, you've had firsthand experience with a soccer injury. Lower-extremity strains and sprains have become extremely common, although some injuries are more severe than others.

Fractures often result from forceful blows or kicks to some part of your body. If you've suffered a torn cartilage injury, or become the victim of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee sprain, you're likely to require surgery.

Read more: Knee Pain After a Fall

Signs of Torn Knee Meniscus

Think of a meniscus as a natural disk-like cushion between two bones. Your knee contains two of these shock-absorbing cartilaginous structures, each located between the shinbone and thighbone. Besides preventing the bones from rubbing against each other, each meniscus evenly distributes joint fluid and mitigates the effects of impacts and landings.

If you've suffered a knee injury, and suspect a torn meniscus, note if one (or more) of the following symptoms are present, advises Harvard Health Publishing. First, determine if you're experiencing knee pain and tenderness, along with visible swelling within the 12-hour period after the injury.

Notice if you can't bend the knee, or can't completely straighten it. If you hear a grinding or popping noise when you move the knee, or it gives out when you try to walk, you could very well have torn a meniscus.

For a definitive answer, and a targeted treatment plan, consult your physician or a qualified specialist. She (or he) will compare the "normal" knee with the injured one, and will also perform some hands-on diagnostic work. If the results point toward a torn meniscus injury, your physician may recommend additional tests.

If a torn meniscus is indeed the culprit, you have three potential treatment options for dodgy knees. For small tears adjacent to the meniscus' edge, or if your doctor recommends you don't undergo surgery, a temporary brace and rehabilitation program may be a good choice.

Let's say the meniscus tear is larger, but the injury location has sufficient blood supply to support healing. If that's the case, fixing the tear with stitches may be possible. If the torn meniscus isn't likely to heal on its own, the surgeon may remove the tear's ragged edges to promote smooth joint movement.

Learn About Footballer’s Knee

If you're well acquainted with the soccer universe, you're probably familiar with the term "footballer's knee," which is a catchy way of referring to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. This serious occurrence requires targeted surgery, along with months of intensive rehabilitation.

For another perspective, an article published in the October 2017 edition of the Saudi Journal of Sports Medicine details a case in which an injured 24-year-old Indian National Team athlete underwent intricate ACL surgery, plus several associated procedures. After successfully completing an accelerated rehab program, this fortunate player was cleared to play again only four months after his injury.

While recovering, the young player rigorously performed prescribed exercises, and also received extensive physical therapy. He achieved significant milestones at the four-week, eight-week and nine-week points.

During the 10th week, the player began running on the soccer field, and also completed numerous functional tests. After a gradual reintroduction to practice match play, he received the "all clear" signal to return to active competition.

Read more: Rehab for Sprained and Twisted Knee Injuries

Soccer Knee Injury Treatment Options

To correctly diagnose and treat soccer knee injuries, your physician will gather detailed information about the injury and your previous knee pain, if any. She will likely order MRI scans or X-rays, especially if there's so much swelling that your doctor can't accurately tell which body structures are affected.

Ohio State University notes that your physician next formulates a treatment plan. If appropriate, he'll begin with nonsurgical treatment options that include a targeted physical therapy and rehabilitation program. Aquatic therapy may be especially useful, as the water's cushioning effects enable you to safely exercise your knee without the hazards of weight-bearing workouts.

Steroid injections, which can help to decrease injury-related joint inflammation and pain, can also enable you to achieve better overall knee function. These injections can also be used as an adjunct to physical therapy and a fitted knee brace.

If your physician incorporates alternative treatment and pain relief methods, he's likely familiar with dry needling for soccer knee injuries. In fact, this technique has some similarities to acupuncture.

Here, a physical therapist inserts a very small needle into a spasming muscle, or trigger point. This enables the muscle to relax, permitting an increased blood flow while reducing pain and heightening movement. This should hopefully alleviate your knee pain after playing soccer.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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