How are your knees feeling today? Are you fit enough for The Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run, a challenging 30-mile foot race along the Baden-Powell Centennial Trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove? Running Wild magazine has recognized the Knee Knackering race on the North Shore of Vancouver, BC as one of the 25 toughest races in North America, as it involves some 16,000 feet of vertical climb and descent.
What started as a group run with 8 participants in 1989 has quickly grown into the biggest ultramarathon race in Canada. Since 1994, there has been so much interest that the Northshore Ultra Trailrunning Society (N.U.T.S.) has been forced to use a lottery to select a maximum slate of 175 runners. Raising over $10,000 for various charities since its inception, the Knee Knackering race has benefited the North Shore Search and Rescue team.
Knee Knackering however is not just limited to the North Shore Mountains. Because of the increased emphasis on physical fitness, knee injuries are becoming more common among athletes and the general population. According to the California Podiatric Medical Association, out of the more than 100 million North Americans who will visit the emergency room this year, almost 13 million will be treated due to sports-related injuries. More than 4.1 million people seek medical care each year for a knee problem. James M. Fox MD says ‘The annual cost of these knee injuries, including hospital bills, physical therapy sessions, and hours lost from work exceeds 40 billion dollars!
There is a hit song being played on the local radios these days which gives the advice: ‘Be good to your knees; you are going to need them later’. It’s so true. I remember when I used to jog a mile and a half every day. Some days I forgot to warm up properly and would sometimes injure my knees. I would be in agony trying to crawl up the stairs, only to go out jogging the next day if I felt better. Very few of us, when we are young, think about the long-term damage that we may be doing to our long-term knee joints.
Dr. Richard Villar, a specialist hip and knee surgeon, holds that the knee is the most commonly injured joint in the body. In San Francisco, a sports medicine clinic reviewed 10,000 recreational injuries, and nine activities – basketball, dance, football, gymnastics, running, skiing, tennis, soccer, and figure skating – accounted for three-fourths of the injuries. What part of the anatomy was number one on the hit parade? Knees.
The injured knee is also particularly unforgiving. Knee injuries account for more time lost from competition by young athletes than any other type of surgery. Knee injuries end more athletic careers and disable more athletes in later years than any other sports injury. A severely injured knee is often at risk when an athlete returns to competition, even after surgery.
Of the 187 joints in the body, the knee is, without a doubt, the best at grabbing one’s attention and is our most vulnerable joint, according to James Fox, MD. An estimated 50 million North Americans have suffered or are suffering knee pain or injuries. For an estimated 17 million North American athletes, the injury rate in such sports as football, gymnastics, skiing, and racket sports is projected at over 50 percent. According to sports medicine specialists, the initial complaint of over half the athletes they see is knee pain. Dr. Fox notes that if you’re an athlete, the chances of knee surgery are five times greater than surgery on any other part of the body
One in four high-school football players will suffer some kind of knee injury. According to a National Athletic Trainers Association study, about fifteen thousand high-school football players require knee surgery every year—almost 70 percent of all operations performed on high-school football players. A nine-year study showed that 70 percent of all football players had knee surgery by the age of twenty-six, including half of all running backs and virtually every quarterback.
When a knee is injured, it is vital to get evaluation from a medical expert as soon as possible. The best treatment for injury is prevention, which is why we have many recreational therapists available to guide us in strengthening our knees through exercise at our local Rec Centres.
Immediate treatment of minor sports injuries is called RICE after its four components: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Arthroscopic ‘keyhole’ surgery allows doctors using miniature cameras to repair damaged knee cartilage, resulting in a dramatically reduced recovery period. Up to a million ‘keyhole’ surgeries are done each year. Up to 200,000 knee joints are surgically replaced each year. There are now dozens of websites offering sports braces to reduce and allegedly prevent knee damage. Even the snowboarder websites are offering custom designed knee braces for the active boarder.
As we strengthen our knees physically, it is also vital that we strengthen our knees spiritually. In both the Old and New Testament, we are encouraged to strengthen our tired arms and our weak knees (Isaiah 35:3, Hebrews 12:10). The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines being weak-kneed as ‘the inability to stand firm, the want of resolution’. There can be a danger in our gentle Canadian culture that we may fail to take a stand when a stand needs to be taken. Only passionate persistent prayer in Jesus’ name can free us from morally weak knees.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
–previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
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