Saturday, June 16, 2012

Is Taekwondo Bad for Your Knees?

The short is answer is.....yes. However, that simple statement ignores the many reasons, exceptions, and more that will now be detailed below.

Is Kicking in Taekwondo Bad for Your Knees?

     This is the largest source of controversy. Many argue that kicking puts the body through sets of motion that it would absolutely never do in a natural setting. Taekwondo kicks, especially, are very unnatural movements, all the way from chambering to how the kick snaps before contact. However, these critics tend to completely ignore the extensive stretching done before most Taekwondo classes. Taekwondo athletes are among the most flexible, rivaled only by gymnasts and yoga practitioners. These stretches prepare the body for acrobatic and high-reaching kicks. However, stretching does not usually aid the knees and muscle must be built in these areas instead to ensure stability and to prevent injury. Without substantial amounts of muscle in the area between the shin and the femur, the knees are very prone to rubbing together and causing injurious friction. Snapping your kicks, especially, can prove to be distasterous in the long run if you do not have enough supporting muscle. These muscles can be built very easily by positioning your bike seat lower when riding around, squats with and without weights, etc. Knee problems from kicking aren't usually an issue at all for people under 25. However, Taekwondo athletes should strive to kick solid targets and kick the air less often, as the air does not offer proper resistance to prevent the knee from overextending.

Verdict: Kicking is only bad for you if you aren't prepared for it

What About the Rest of Taekwondo?

This question usually accompanies the previous one. Most of the other aspects of Taekwondo are actually very beneficial towards you joints. Stretching is immensely valuable. Forms, when done with proper form and intensity, help build up strong joints due to the stances. Breaking, when done within your limits, builds strong bones through the principle of Wolff's Law, which is commonly seen in  Muay Thai shin conditioning.

There are only three sources of consistent knee pain and injury that can be found in Taekwondo. The bouncing seen in Olympic sparring applies stress to the knees in jolts when done for extended periods. Repetitive full power kicks aimed into the air can cause the knee to overextend. The third and most common method of attaining injury is not stretching properly beforehand.

All in all, Taekwondo is a martial art that is actually largely beneficial to the knees, if done with proper precaution. Without precaution, it is just as injurious as other sports.


Anonymous said...

I took up Taekwondo about 3 months after sustaining a serious knee injury as part of my rehab. For about a year it was absolute hell & I lived in knee supports, spent wads of cash on Deep Heat & Ralgex sprays & contemplated quitting or a walking stick. Finally the pain started to ease & my knee is actually better than the other one!

Thanks for the tips on the squats, will pass that on to my Instructors.



TaekwonPro said...

No problem, Simon.

Have a speedy recovery.

Alex said...

Stretching. What exactly do you mean by stretching? If you're talking about static stretching (holding an extended position) then, no. It is not immensely valuable, especially since you denote stretching done before exercise.

There is a plethora of research as to why this has no benefit and is actually detrimental to performance.

If you aren't talking about static, then it's debatable.

TaekwonPro said...

Passive stretching has been phased out of the vast majority of Taekwondo schools and has been replaced with static stretching that doesn't extend beyond the natural range of motion.

Therefore, writing "static" stretching is fairly redundant, as most TKD athletes already use it, even if they aren't familiar with the proper term.

I will shortly be writing an article on passive, dynamic, and static stretching.

Anonymous said...

i've seen schools at tournaments do assisted "leg lifts" right before sparring.

that's the only time i've ever seen a "passive" stretch in any tae-kwon-do dojang, tho.

Alex said...

While I didn't mention passive stretching, it is essentially physiologically the same as a static stretch (being a subset of a static stretch actually) and is thus no better.

Yes lots of Taekwondo students are familiar with static stretching and use it a lot. That doesn't mean it's any good.

I was wondering, when you say stretching, what sort were you talking about?

TaekwonPro said...

Passive stretching is different from static stretching. Static stretching remains within the body's range of motion, passive stretching exceeds it in an unhealthy manner.

Any kind of stretching is needed before Taekwondo to prevent injury. Recent studies that have shown that stretching is "bad" before a workout only apply to running and running-related sports. Taekwondo requires stretching beforehand, not to maximize performance, but to reduce injury, largely hamstring and hip related.

Alex said...

Also that description of passive is only for how far you decide to take the stretch. There's no requirement to exceed ROM in an unhealthy manner.

Physiologically they are the same though, holding an elongated position without contraction for an extended period of time, and thus producing the same physiological response.

TaekwonPro said...

They are not the same. Passive stretching is by definition a form of static stretching with an active external force other than gravity acting upon the limb in question. Static stretching relies purely on gravity.