Bone Up on Knee Knowledge

Tom Brady may have just killed your fantasy squad, but look at the brightside: Now you’ll know your ACLs from your MCLs.

Sooner or later your ungrateful knees will pay you back for  every step, stumble, and humiliating double Dutch session. “Of the 360 joints, knees take the most abuse, but are the worst equipped,” says Dr. Wael Barsoum, vice chair of orthopedic surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. But a few measures taken in your 20s and 30s will appease your knees for years to come. Here’s how:

1. If you’re a: Jogger/triathlete/fugitive
Risk: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (runner’s Knee)
PPS is caused by your kneecap veering inward and grinding against your femur, sending hammer blows of hurt to the front of the knee. The cause: piss-poor running form.
Prevent: Fix your stride. “Most running shoe stores can analyze and fix your form,” says Katie Neitz, author of The Runner’s World Guide to Road Racing.
Hurts now: Call the doc to rule out a torn meniscus—a bowtie-shaped ligament that, if ripped, requires surgery.

2. If you’re a: Snowboarder/plumber/big game hunter
Risk: Prepatellar bursitis
If you spend a lot of time crouching, the fluid-filled bursa sac—below the kneecap—becomes inflamed from friction. The telltale sign it’s PB? Your knee will literally be hot to the touch.
Prevent: It’s time to heed advice you’ve always ignored: Stretch after exercising—not just before.
Hurts now: Call the doc, STAT! “Bursa sacs can become infected,” warns Barsoum. And let’s face it: Infected sacs are friggin’ disgusting!

3. If you’re a: Skateboarder/new gym member/ninja master
Risk: Patellar tendOnitis
Called jumper’s knee, this inflammation of tissue between your kneecap and shin sends jolts of pain to your lower knee when climbing stairs. Weak quads and hamstrings are typically to blame.
Prevent: Cycle in leg routines into your workouts. It’s not all about the guns, bro!
Hurts now: “Stop running for a few weeks and take Advil,” says Barsoum. In the meantime, try low-impact sports like swimming—or smoking menthols.

4. If you’re a: Son of an arthritic/marathon runner/crotchety retiree
Risk: Osteoarthritis
Arthritis is a disease that causes deterioration of cartilage in your joints. Think you’re too young? Nearly 10 million adults under 40 have been diagnosed, according to the CDC.
Prevent: Drink OJ every day. Australian researchers found that those who ingested the most vitamin C over 10 years were the least affected by arthritis.
Hurts now: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE)—after workouts or if a storm’s a-comin’, Gramps.

5. If you’re an: Ex-jock/air duct cleaner/army sniper
Risk: Baker’s Cyst
This deliciously named condition is an excess of synovial fluid that forms a nasty, painful blister on the back of your knee. Those with past knee problems (or who crawl for a living) are most often affected.
Prevent: You can’t. “It’s a roll of the dice whether you’ll grow an extra head on your knee,” says Barsoum.
Hurts now: Good news, bumpy—it’ll go away in a week or so. In the meantime, do us a favor and skip the shorts.

6. If you’re a: Tennis player/waiter/compulsive hop-scotcher
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
The ITB is a nerve-dense cord spanning the leg from hip to knee. Foot-pounding activities can irritate it, causing a dull pain on the outside of your knee.
Prevent: Do this regularly: Cross one foot over the other while standing, then slowly bend over. Switch feet. Repeat.
Hurts now: Start doing a special daily stretch to avoid further leg torture.