If you have ever experienced pain in the front of your knee while jumping or climbing stairs or if your knee has ever locked in place, you may be suffering from one of the most common overuse injuries to figure skaters: patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).

PFPS is an overuse injury that occurs over time, and many figure skaters do not even know they have it until their knee hurts so badly it interferes with their skating. Repeated jumping often causes this condition. The most common symptoms include pain around the kneecap, pain experienced during squatting or bending, or sitting for extended periods of time with your leg bent at a 90-degree angle.

PFPS is common in teenagers and flat-footed athletes. Improper warm-ups and cool-downs can aggravate the condition as well. However, the most common reason skaters get PFPS is due to inadequate lower body and core strength. Improving strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals and core muscles is the first step in preventing PFPS.

If you already have PFPS, up to 90 percent of people affected fully recover and are able to return to their normal activities. Most active people respond well to non-surgical options such as a rehabilitation program ranging anywhere from six weeks to six months. Surgery is relatively uncommon, but prescribed in rare cases when PFPS pain cannot be eliminated with braces, rest or physical therapy.

Reference: US Figure Skating Association, “Protect Your Knees, Please!”, December 2004. http://www.usfsa.org/Content/parentsarticles/Health%20Fitness_Dec04.pdf

Reference: University of California San Francisco Medical Center, “Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome”. http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/patellofemoral_pain_syndrome

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