5 Most Common Causes of Knee Pain for CrossFit Athletes

This type of pain normally is life altering and prevents people from doing what they love (i.e. exercise). Generally people that have knee-pain are forced to follow one of two path’s.

  1. Number one, head to a medical authority (physician, chiro, your mom, etc.) and be told to stop.
  2. Number two, avoid the warning sign of pain, push through it and end up being forced to stop, because you are injured.

We all know the trouble that this creates such as weight-gain and a psychotic rage developed as a result of inability to lift heavy things or run great distances. Fortunately there is something you can do to prevent this but I think we must first talk about how your knee works and then we can understand the five most common causes of knee pain.

“We must understand our body better, to take care of it better.”

The train and the track

To understand how the knee works I think it’s best to think of how a train travels on a track. The train (knee cap) travels on a track (thigh) that has 27 muscles attaching to it. That is a lot of muscles that can influence the path that the kneecap (patella bone) travels. The train is easily influenced by muscles that are out of balance with one another and can force our train of the track. Anatomically what is occurring is that tendons gets pulled from the femoral groove they travel on, ligaments get strained in directions they aren’t supposed and our knee can’t absorb impact well. We know this is the case when we hear cracking and popping in our knee or we see a knee that darts inwards while we squat or run. These visual and auditory cues are big signs that something is wrong, limiting performance gains and increasing the chances of injury. Here are the five causes for how poor knee tracking and the inability to cushion impact becomes a problem.

“A cracking, popping, or run-away knee is not normal.”

Cause number 1 – Poor ankle Mobility


The number one postural deviation we see amongst Crossfit athletes, is a lack of ankle mobility. Whether it is our traditional choices in footwear (high heeled shoes, running shoes, etc.) or the type of exercises we have traditional chosen to do, it is very common to see athletes who lack dorsiflexion. Another way of saying this, is that we have athletes who are great at standing on their toes, but lack the ability to pull their toes upwards.

This is a big problem because of the number of squatting type exercise’s we must do, during which we are vertically lowering our body towards the ground. We have to understand that true strength isn’t just lifting a weight explosively, it is also the ability to “load” the muscle up first. We do this by allowing it to first stretch out like a rubber band. This is the very reason why if I asked you to jump up as high as you can you would first bend at the knees and hips before you took off.

If you lack proper ankle dorsiflexion, you will not be able to decelerate your body properly and end up with a knee that travels to a bad position. This is problematic for any exercise that involves bending at the hip, knee and ankle. Bad position during these exercises turn’s the knee into that train that travels off it’s track and ultimately turns it into a wreck.

“Your knee is a slave to your foot and hip.”

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