I'm 16 and I've been doing Tae Kwon Do for about a month and I've just received my yellow belt. Recently I've been having some pain in my knees after practise. I do all the stretching but it's not helping a lot. How can I avoid injuring my knees while kicking and how can I treat the pain in them? Should I wear any protection?
I train in Taekwondo and had a similar problem with my knees (though after a few years of training).
At the time, my doctor diagnosed "chondromalacia patella", which he said was caused by an imbalance in strength of tendons/ligaments across the knee. He prescribed a set of exercises to help balance the strength. These exercises were quite simple and didn't involve much weight.
If your knee problem is something similar, squats and deadlifts should be avoided, at least until the imbalance is corrected.
I would strongly recommend seeing your GP/doctor or a physiotherapist. Also, ease up on your training (shallower lunges and squats, lighter kicks, etc.)
At your age, it is very important to manage injuries carefully; your body will still be changing and injuries now can have a lasting impact.
Firstly, DO NOT push yourself when doing front splits. This is the #1 reason Taekwondo-ka's hurt their knees. You don't need to be super flexible until you reach red belt (or maybe blue/red). When you do front splits, you're putting enormous amounts of strain on your cross-ligaments, which are a weak spot on your body as it is. I ruined my Taekwondo AND dancing careers because I thought I knew better than everyone else and kept doing high risk stretches and techniques when I was clearly told not to.
If your knees hurt, take it easy. If you injure your cross-ligaments even once, you're going to live with it for the rest of your life. In the meantime, put anti-inflammatory ointment on your knee and wear one of those badass knee supports that all the cool bro's have.
Go see a sports trainer or physical therapist who can do a good analysis of what's going on with your knees. This doesn't have to involve X-rays or anything, a session of checking range of motion, strength testing various muscles, etc. should give them a good idea of what's going on, and what exercises will help.
There could be a whole lot of DIFFERENT issues going on, and the treatments for one issue could exacerbate another, if you don't know what's happening. Most people it comes down to imbalanced training of their legs and needing to strengthen some things... but it's better to know exactly what it is so you don't hurt yourself trying to make things better.
"Knees hurting" could be muscle soreness - as muscles both in the thigh and the calf attach all around the knee. Particular movements might over stress particular muscles, in which case, directed exercises and strength training could make a world of difference.
This might be resistance training (which is generally good) and/or coordination training, such as balancing so your muscles can activate in time to work as stablizers effectively.
Tendonitis might be a cause, which there is no specific exercise, but rather giving it a rest to reduce swelling. It tends to be chronic and you will probably be best off finding alternate techniques in your training to prevent triggering it. (Notice that this is the opposite of the strength training solution...)
Tendon tears - this is a big problem and if you're suffering it, you're going to have to change your training program immediately. Microtears usually don't result in immediate performance issues outside of pain, but you can eventually destroy the whole tendon this way, and of course, it indicates you're applying more force than what your body can take, and the odds of a full tear are significant.
Cartilage problems usually don't give you pain until things have gotten really terrible. That said, you don't ever want to get there. Bad training, unlucky genetics as far as how your body is built, and things like early arthritis can all cause this.
The solutions will definitely involve changing your training and possibly surgery as well.
Both Dave and Juann have good points. You should attempt to strengthen your knees with some low squats and deadlifts. Don't start to heavy or with too much and don't forget to do some proper stretching AFTER you work out as well as on your down time. With the stretching, make sure you are trying to keep it natural at first, then push into a mildly uncomfortable area while being mindful of any actual pain. If you feel pain in the stretch then stop. For the mean time until you are strong and flexible enough, try some anti-inflammatory creams or ointments and some ibuprofen(Advil or other). Avoid the use of braces or supports unless told otherwise by a doctor as it will hinder your knee's growth.
I suggest you trying not to use 100 % of your force and speed when you practice air kicking ( or empty kicking as some people call it ). If you do a very powerful and fast kick without hitting a target, like a pad or a sparring opponent, your knee joints will absorb all the force of the kick and you may get pain and inflammation. The pain could also be the result of overextending your leg and " locking " your knee when kicking ( this is very common when doing fast side kicks ) and this is also the result of kicking without proper control and technique. My advice is to stretch and warm up properly before your training and to use a moderate pace for your air kicking ( a slower pace will also allow you to focus more on balance and footwork ). For the moment just rest your knees and get back to training only when the pain is gone.
Do not wear knee wraps or other protective devices unless you have to. They are a crutch, to be used when you have an unfixable or acute injury.
Protect your knees from damage by making them strong with progressively heavier barbell squats and deadlifts in a rational, proven strength program like Starting Strength. As Tom Kurz, martial artist and author of Science of Sports Training and Stretching Scientifically recommends:
Question: On page 63 of Stretching Scientifically (fourth edition) you state that people who experience knee problems should do strength exercises. What are these strength exercises?
Answer: Squats and deadlifts.
Squatting deep (hips below the knees) develops the muscle and soft tissue around the knees.
First, things first in Taekwondo -- technique has to be learned from someone who knows. Keep a tight ankle in a front kick (front kick, ap cha busigi) for example. Side kick (yup cha olligi, yup cha busigi or side rising and side bend kicking) keep toes back (true in front kick as well: tightens ankle "sinew" muscle, ligamentous and tendon develop from good practice and habit. You can't have a floppy foot and kick with speed without it jolting your knee out of whack and if you hit something with the wrong aspect (wrong striking point) or weak attitude of the joint (a side, sword side of the outer foot). Not heel, unless a back kick in the fashion a mule might kick (straight backwards, standing or flying; or a spinning heel). Thinking, just now what other (proper) kick uses the heel (and, always ONLY -- the heel The heel has, must have a concentrated point like a ball peen hammer using the walking muscles and all lower back and abdominal though without a good tight ankle ...
Some, and by some I mean: some grandmasters (Taekwondo post 1972-74; and with the synergy of Taeguk jang (Poomse and Yu Dan Cha) think highly of the exercises contained in Keumchang (lesser and greater hinge, et al). I can see the utility of those techniques, considering them now (the entirety of the Yu Dan Cha, form; now really) as great training for aspiring second - fourth Dans. Check it out google Keumchang or go to the kukikwon's website in mobile it makes a great app for iphone too.
Yeah, be kind to knees, knuckles and vertebra you'll not want them hurt or badly damaged (to be reconditioned, or worse removed; replaced or fused) and it is so very much wiser to go easy and go long -- practice.
How to get to Carnegie Hall? Same as in every other city or NYC -- practice, practice. But, if you are intending concert piano, violin or bassoon practice with an "open hand" not fist. Same applies to knee care and prevention: technique and proper execution of that technique in order of accurateness of execution and accuracy of striking point, balance strength elocution, speed (lastly: if you can do it slowly, many reason you can do it fast (not great, or even good science in contemporary neurophysiology and kinesthetics but exactly right in good teaching skills).
I think the thing that helped me most, and seems "race ipsa loquitur" is that I had great teachers and because I sought them out; I wish you good, great teachers and the means to employ them (they deserve decent payment, too). You'll want it as well. Taekwondo is now a four year college baccalaureate degree, and with that all that a 4-yr. college degree requires and commands.