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I'm signed up for a 5k on Sunday. It's for fun, and I'm not worried about getting a great time, but I'd like to make the best showing that I can. The catch is that yesterday, I took a tumble over a concrete stanchion (I was being playful and hopping up and down. I caught my toe on the edge) and I now have a nicely bruised knee. I don't think that I did any lasting damage. I did a bit of light jogging this morning and it aches a bit when my weight moves to that leg, but the pain largely goes away after I stop.

Even if I didn't feel like this is a minor injury, I don't have time to schedule a doctor's appointment, and it really does seem minor. Is there anything I should be doing to ensure that I'm not causing further injury to my knee in the running? And should I take a dose of aspirin or other NSAID before the run as prophylaxis against swelling caused by the running?

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There are a few things to look out for when you sustain an injury to the knee:

  • Swelling - If you have a large amount of swelling in the area, you may have ruptured or injured the bursa sac, which can cause inflammation
  • Offset patella (Kneecap) - Unlikely, since you can run, but a direct blow to the kneecap can throw it out of the track it normally rides in.
  • Instability - Basically, you feel like your knee will or does give out, or that you are unstable on that leg.

Since you can run with minimal pain, I would guess that you are probably ok to run the race, although you may not be able to go all out. However, if the area starts swelling, or turns warm or red between now and then, forget the race and get it checked out.

As far as the NSAID's, I'd personally recommend against them. While it may be a bit stiff and painful, I'd rather not mask that feedback mechanism, so that if the pain gets worse rapidly, it's not being covered up by the medication. But, YMMV, you are certainly free to make your own decision. It won't make the inflammation worse.

I would definitely be following RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol between now and then, and after the race as well, to help get rid of any residual swelling. If the pain persists for an extended time or gets much worse during the race, get it checked out.

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  • I successfully completed the run, averaged 25 minutes with most of the delay being running out of breath. Knee ached a bit afterwards, but not too badly. Thank you for your comprehensive answer. – Sean Duggan May 18 '15 at 13:31
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My habit is to go for a short run before committing to a race after an injury. What I'm looking for is any modifications to my running gait because of the injury. I know from experience that if I have to modify something because of pain then I simply shouldn't run.

Otherwise, toughen up and run the race; even if just for more race experience.

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Yes and no.

If you're worried about permanent damage, pain is often the indicator that lets you know something is wrong. Therefore you should NOT take medication which inhibits pain. Instead, you could give the 5k a shot, but abort if the pain gets too substantial.

But if, as you suspect, it's really just a minor injury, then the pain can of course be overlooked as what it is; a bruise. In this case, you could opt to relieve the pain with aspirin to get through the run, or just man up and run regardless.

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