Q: How can I prevent an ACL injury in basketball?
A: Watching a basketball player suffer a gruesome ACL injury can scar you for life and make you sick to your stomach. Seeing someone else suffer it leaves a lasting memory. But whether you have witnessed it or not, as an athlete, you want to do everything in your power to prevent it from happening to you. How do you do that? Try adding the following proactive exercises to your training.
“Most knee injuries happen when you stop, not on the takeoff,” says Bryan Meyer, owner of B Meyer Training and Dwight Howard’s trainer. “Your knee is under more stress when you plant, react and slow your momentum down.”
He explains the best way to prevent an ACL injury is to strengthen your lower body. Your glutes, quads and hamstrings must be strong enough to control your momentum and stabilize your knees when you change directions and land from a jump.
Although the muscles that act on your knees are important, you need to pay extra attention to your hips. “If your hips lack strength in their full range of motion, then you’re going to get that movement out of your knees, which should be stable,” adds Meyer.
To keep your knees healthy and stay on the court, Meyer recommends adding the following four prehab exercises to your training. Perform each movement twice per week.
Leg Extension Holds
- Sit in a leg extension machine with the pad touching your lower shins.
- Extend your legs through a quarter of your range of motion. Hold for the specified amount of time.
- Lower to the starting position.
- Repeat at half, three-quarter and full range of motion.
Sets/Duration: 1×10 seconds each position
Glute Bridge With March
- Lie one your back with your knees bent and heels on the ground. You should be able to touch your heels with your fingertips.
- Hold your palms together with your arms extended in front of your chest.
- Contract your glutes and raise your hips to the ceiling. Hold this position.
- Slowly extend your right knee until your leg is straight without dropping your hips.
- Lower your heel to the ground.
- Repeat with your left leg and continue in an alternating fashion for the specified duration.
Sets/Duration: 3-4×30-45 seconds
Tip: Walk your feet out to focus on your hamstrings.
Vertical Jump to Squat Hold Shifts
- Perform a vertical jump and land softly in an athletic stance. Hold the landing for three seconds.
- Shift your weight to one leg and lower into a Single-Leg Squat.
- Extend your hip and knee to stand.
- Repeat with your opposite leg to complete one rep.
Tip: Perform at a fast pace to increase the difficulty.
Physioball Squat Shifts (for advanced athletes only)
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your back against a physioball.
- Bend your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground, or go as low as you can while maintaining a straight back.
- Shift 80 percent of your weight to one leg, keeping your hips level. Hold for five seconds.
- Repeat on opposite leg to complete one rep.