Knee cartilage damage can cause pain, inflammation, clicking noise and catching sensation, and reduced joint range of motion. More exhaustive cartilage injuries can cause osteoarthritis, a degenerative common condition.
The knee does not undergo significant impacts in cycling. However, the continuous concentric movement (sustained pedaling motion with intensity changes) produces microtrauma. Pedaling biomechanics is complex since the constant fixation point of the forefoot conditions the knee’s natural movement.
We will dive deeper into this question and explore the multifaceted aspects contributing to knee health during cycling. We’ll discuss the risks, debunks, and preventive strategies for cycling-related knee cartilage damage.
Does Cycling Damage Knee Cartilage: 8 Risks
Cycling can also pose some risks if done improperly or excessively. We will delve deeper into the possible dangers of cycling for knee cartilage health.
Improper form, bike fit, or overuse can cause damage to the knee joint, leading to inflammation, degeneration, and injury. Here are some of the common factors that can contribute to knee problems when cycling:
Pedaling with too high or too low cadence
- A too-high cadence (usually over 110 RPM): can cause the knee joint to experience more stress than it should. It can also lead to inefficient cycling and increased load on the knee joint.
- A too-low cadence (usually under 60 RPM): can increase the potential of causing knee pain because it can put more pressure on the knee joint.
Using too-high or too-low gears
- Using gears that are too high can put more strain on your knee joint, which can lead to damage over time.
- Using gears that are too low can lead to overuse injuries because they require more revolutions per minute.
Having an incorrect saddle height or position
- A too-high or too-low saddle can cause hyperextension or flexion, respectively, of the knee, increasing the pressure and friction on the cartilage.
- A too-forward or backward saddle can cause anterior or posterior tilt, respectively, of the pelvis, which affects the knee’s stability.
Having an incorrect cleat alignment or position
- Improper cleat alignment can cause stress and shear on the knee cartilage and affect the rotation and movement of the foot and ankle.
- Incorrect cleat position can also affect the power and efficiency of the pedaling.
Cycling Damages Knee Cartilage: Preventive & Treatment
There are effective preventive and treatment measures that you can take to protect your knees and enjoy cycling without pain or damage.
A. Mitigating the risks of cartilage damage through proper bike fit, adapted cycling form, and regular stretching
Proper Bike Fit:
Ensuring your bike fits you well is essential to prevent knee cartilage damage from cycling. A proper bike fit can reduce the stress and strain on your knees and improve your pedaling efficiency, comfort, and performance. Some essential factors that you need to consider while selecting the proper bike fit are:
- Optimal saddle height, fore-aft position, and angle.
- Correct handlebar height, reach, and width.
A good cycling form can reduce the unnecessary movements and forces on your knees, which can help you avoid knee cartilage damage. Follow these tips to adopt a good cycling form:
- Keep your knees in line with your feet and hips, and avoid excessive inward or outward rotation of your knees.
- Pedal smoothly and evenly, and avoid jerky or erratic motions.
- Use a suitable cadence (the number of revolutions per minute of your pedals) and gear ratio, and avoid grinding or spinning too fast or too slow.
- Distribute your weight evenly on the saddle, pedals, and handlebars, and avoid leaning too much on one side or the other.
- Relax your upper body and arms, and avoid gripping the handlebars too tightly or tensely.
Regular stretching can also help protect knee cartilage by improving flexibility, mobility, and blood circulation. Stretching can also reduce the stiffness, soreness, and inflammation in your muscles, tendons, and joints. Some of the best stretches that you can perform to prevent knee cartilage damage are:
- Quadriceps stretch.
- Hamstring stretch.
- Calf stretch.
- Glute stretch.
- IT band stretch.
3 Treatment Measures
The role of rest, appropriate nutrition, and physiotherapy in aiding knee cartilage healing after injury or damage.
If you have already suffered from knee cartilage damage from cycling, it’s crucial to take some time off from cycling and allow your knee to heal. Resting your knee can help reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation and prevent further damage. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may need to use ice, compression, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medication to ease your symptoms.
Appropriate nutrition is vital for knee cartilage healing. A balanced diet with enough protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water can help your body repair the damaged tissues and restore your knee function. Some of the best foods that you can consume to aid knee cartilage healing are:
- Lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy, beans, and nuts.
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
- Olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
- Citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, spinach, peppers, and tomatoes.
Physiotherapy can help you rehabilitate your knee cartilage after an injury or damage. A trained physiotherapist can help you with exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your knees, which can lessen pain and stiffness.
Other Strategies and Tactics:
Different strategies and tactics to minimize knee cartilage damage during cycling
Use Knee Pads:
Knee pads can reduce the impact on your knees and protect you from accidental falls or crashes.
Use Clip-in Pedals:
Clip-in pedals can help you maintain a better cycling form and reduce knee stress and movements.
Increase Mileage Gradually:
Make sure to increase your cycling mileage gradually instead of too abruptly. Sudden changes in mileage or intensity can cause knee cartilage damage.
Depending on various factors, cycling can be beneficial or detrimental to knee cartilage health. In some cyclists,the low-impact nature of cycling and its positive effect on joint mobility and inflammation may result in cartilage damage or pain.
The critical takeaway is approaching cycling with caution, respect, and proper knowledge of preventing knee cartilage damage. This blog post has provided the information and insights to keep your knees healthy and pain-free during cycling. Remember to prioritize safety, listen to your body, and consult your doctor if you experience warning signs of cartilage damage.