When our kids are young and just starting to play sports, we want to keep them safe. We buy them protective equipment and make sure they are taught the proper fundamentals to ensure safe play. We don’t like to think about it, but with sports participation come sports-related injuries. Most are minor injuries such as sprains and strains. Some, however, are more serious, such as fractures, dislocations, concussions or serious knee injuries.
Serious knee injuries seem to happen every season, especially at the high school level or higher. One out of every 100 female athletes will suffer a serious knee injury during a sports season. The majority of these injuries are non-contact and occur in sports that involve pivoting or jumping.
One of the most serious knee injuries is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. The ACL controls the pivoting and forward motion of the knee joint, along with the hamstring muscles. If these muscles are not adequately prepared, jumping and twisting motions may create sheer forces that can tear the ACL. An ACL injury may sideline an athlete for 12 months or more, and can cost more than $25,000 to treat if surgery, physical therapy and support braces are needed.
Having strong, balanced leg muscles is a great way to prevent knee injuries. Most female (and even male) teenagers do not have adequate leg musculature to safely protect their knees from the forces that are put on them during competition. Recently, there has been a growing popularity with plyometric/strength training programs that can help decrease knee ligament injuries in both male and female athletes.
Fortunately, there are ways to train to reduce the risk of this kind of injury. There are even special training programs designed specifically for this purpose. Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital is introducing its own specifically designed sports training program called AcCeLerate. AcCeLerate is an adaptation of a nationally recognized program that is proven to decrease serious knee injuries in athletes.
Here are three great exercises that help build important leg muscles and are commonly used in most training programs like AcCeLerate:
1. Vertical Leap: Place one foot on step with the other on the floor. Using the leg that is on the step, jump straight up in the air, landing in the starting position. Be careful not to snap your knee into extension when jumping, and do not let your knee go past your toes when squatting. Repeat two sets of 10, then switch legs.
2. Standing Squat: Step onto a Theraband with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight on your heels. Squat down, keeping your weight on your heels and not letting your knees go past your toes. In a controlled movement, extend your knees into a standing position, but not locking out your knees. Perform two or three sets of 10, depending on your fitness level.
3. Tuck Jump: Starting in an athletic position, jump as high as you can while bringing your knees to your chest and your heels to your butt. Land softly and continue jumping with little to no pause in between jumps for 20 to 30 seconds. Try not to let your knees go past your toes and stop if you feel pain. Try to gradually increase your repetitions within the same time frame.