Etiology of knee pain in elite cyclists: A 14-month consecutive case series


cycling ; friction related overuse injuries ; prepatellar friction syndrome ; differential

Published online: Jan 09 2021

Anton Borgers, Steven Claes, Nathalie Vanbeek, Toon Claes

From the University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium


Overuse injuries of the knee are a common cause of missed training and competition days in elite cyclists, however the underlying conditions causing this knee pain are not well defined. We conducted a diagnostic study, investigating a consecutive series of 53 high level cyclists with non-traumatic knee pain over a 14 month period. Demographic data on the participants’ cycling specialty and training level was noted. Clinical information concerning knee pain intensity, location and occurrence were collected using a questionnaire.

Our results show 7 different overuse injuries were identified. The prepatellar friction syndrome accounted for the majority of these overuse injuries (46%), while medial plica syndrome (15%), biceps femoris tendinopathy (7.5%), patellar tendinopathy (9.4%), infrapatellar plica friction syndrome (7.5%), infrapatellar fat pad impingement (5.7%) and iliotibial band syndrome (3.7%) were other causes of knee pain in these athletes. In contrast to current belief, our results show that instead of patellofemoral cartilage overload, friction related overuse injuries are the most frequent and underestimated cause of knee pain in high level cyclists.