Runner's Knee: 3 Red Flags

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If you're one of the estimated 17 million Americans that regularly hit the road, the track or the treadmill, then you already know running is a great way to stay in shape. (KFSN)

If you're one of the estimated 17 million Americans that regularly hit the road, the track or the treadmill, then you already know running is a great way to stay in shape.

You probably also know that daily pounding can be tough on the body. We have more on runner's knee, how to avoid it, and when those aches and pains are a sign of something serious.

Twenty-six-year-old Tara Shea has been running most of her life. As a high school and college athlete, it kept her in top shape. These days, coach Shea needs to stay in shape to keep up with her high school field hockey team.

But all those years of training have taken a toll. "The pain is in the front lower portion of the kneecap," Shea told Ivanhoe.

John-Paul Rue, M.D. is a sports medicine specialist and Orthopedic Surgeon at the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. He said every year, 15 percent of all serious runners develop runner's knee.

Dr. Rue said "It's kind of a catch-all phrase to describe pain in the knee, typically in front of the knee, that occurs during running."

There are three big running red flags that may signal a serious problem: pain that doesn't go away after rest. Pain with swelling and pain with a clicking or grinding sound. These could mean a tear to the cartilage, the cushioning in the knee.

For less serious pain, Dr. Rue recommends rest, and then changing up the running route and surface.

Dr. Rue explained "The road has a pitch, a certain slope to it. One day run on one side, one day on the other. That's going to change the forces and that's good, mix it up."

Stretching also keeps the muscles around the knee working well and protects the joint. Shea reminds her young athletes all the time.

"I try to stay on top of it, knowing what I've been through," Shea said.

Dr. Rue said while it's difficult to get runners to step away from their favorite sport, he also highly recommends cross training activities, especially swimming and an elliptical machine as ways to keep the cardiovascular system in shape, while not punishing the knees every day.

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