Common Squat Injuries: Knee Pain

This week we’re going to continue our previous series on common squat injuries by opening up a discussion on the topic of knee pain. The knee happens to be one of the one of the most injured joints in all of sports.(1) In fact, I’m sure most of you have sustained a knee injury or have had some kind of knee pain in your life. For simplicity sake we’re going to break down the types of injuries that can be sustained at this joint into two main categories: traumatic and non-traumatic.

Traumatic knee injuries happen as you probably imagine, in one violent incident. For example, let’s say your knee collapses inward as you land from a jump, tearing your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). These types of injuries are extremely serious and season ending. Here’s a few numbers to show just how prevalent these types of injures are today.

  • An estimated 100,000 ACL tears will happen this year in the United States alone. (6)
  • Girls who play soccer and basketball will tear their ACL at a rate 3 times that of boys who participate in the same sports. (6)
  • Roughly 5% of all girls who play year round basketball will tear their ACL at some point in their career! (6)

When it comes to barbell training however, it is rare for someone to sustain a traumatic injury to the knee like a torn ACL. I’m not saying these horrible injuries don’t happen, they’re just not very prevalent during weight training or in weightlifting/powerlifting competition. (2-5)

Research shows us that knee pain associated with barbell training is often due to overuse injuries, such as patellar tendinopathy (5). While these types of injuries are not traumatic enough to limit training, they can become very nagging and often lead to more long-lasting issues down the road.

For example, after following elite Olympic weightlifters for over 6 years, researchers Gregg Calhoon and Dr. Andrew Fry found that 51% of athletes reported chronic knee pain (lasting many weeks). Yet 95.3% of the time they didn’t miss more than a day of training (5). This goes to show how common it is for an athlete to push through non-traumatic irritating knee pain.


These numbers also speak to how powerful the “no pain, no gain” mantra is that many athletes are coached to live by. Today, athletes do their best to mask or cover up pain by wearing knee sleeves, taking pain killers or using topical creams. Unfortunately this way of approaching knee pain is a double edge sword (as you’ll find out later in this blog series).

What’s Coming Up?

For the next few weeks, we’re going to focus on many of the different causes of non-traumatic knee pain during barbell training. We’ll start next week on how to self-diagnose whether you have patellofemoral pain syndrome, IT band syndrome, or quadriceps/patellar tendinopathy. My goal is to develop an easy to understand and implement system to treat your knee pain based on the type of injury you have. With that being said, I always recommend that if you have serious pain, you should seek out a medical professional to address your knee pain.

Until next time,

Dr. Aaron Horschig, PT, DPT, CSCS, USAW


Kevin Photo
Dr. Kevin Sonthana, PT, DPT, CSCS


  1. DeHavenKD, Lintner DM. Athletic injuries: comparison by age, sport, and gender. Am J Sports Med. 1986;14:218-224
  2. Hamill BP. Relative Safety of weightlifting and weight training. J Strength Conditioning Res. 1994;8:53-57
  3. Stone MH, Fry AC, Ritchie M, Stossel-Ross L, et al. Injury potential and safety aspects of weightlifting movements. Strength Condition. 1994;19;15-21
  4. Kulund DN, Dewy JB, Brubaker CE. Olympic weightlifting injuries. Physician Sportsmed. 1978;6(11):111-119
  5. Calhoon G & Fry AC. Injury rates and profiles of elite competitve weightlifters. Journal of Athletic Training. 1993;34(3):232-238
  6. Prodromos CC, Han Y, Rogowski J, et al. A meta-analysis of the incidence of anterior cruciate ligament tears as a function of gender, sport, and a knee injury-reduction regimen. Arthroscopy. 2007 Dec. 23(12): 1320-1325. 

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15 thoughts on “Common Squat Injuries: Knee Pain

  1. waiting for this series, I have terrible knee pain in my right feet, may be it is torn ACL.

    1. i can not flex my left knee because of pain maximum 20 degree also sitting on my flexed knee is impossible{muslem prayer}

  2. That’s something I got last year!Because of covid I started training even more and got my knee injury.Was very painfull for me,that I can’t even sit for a long time and that’s very bad for me because I am a writer with and as you can understand I sit a lot!Ha-ha!
    Now everything is great,thanks to my doctor

  3. I am not a big fun of gym or squats (because I am just a writer with ) and last year I got such an problem!That was very painfull that I even can’t sit for a long time!

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