Knee injuries and knee pain plague athletes and the general population, alike.
Knee injuries can be caused by multiple factors, such as traumatic injuries, overuse injuries and non-contact injuries. One of the most common mistakes when it comes to relieving pain or preventing injuries is to focus on the actual knee itself.
The reality is that to maintain knee health and decrease the risk from injuries, one must address issues above and below the knee joint. In other words, we have to also look at the hips and the ankles.
Ideally, we should have good hip control via adequate glute strength and sufficient ankle mobility to decrease unnecessary stress on the knee. With that in mind, here are my top three strengthening/mobility exercises to address the three key joints (ankle, knee, and hip) that go into bulletproof knees.
Glute Strength: Standing Fire Hydrant
Glute Strength is an important factor in knee pain, as your glutes help control motions of the hip. Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries are one of the most common injuries in basketball, particularly for female athletes. Studies have shown that up to 64 percent of ACL injuries are the result of a non-contact mechanism.
A non-contact ACL injury occurs when the tibia and femur twist opposite each other or hyperextend. Therefore, having glute strength to help control the femur and prevent excessive internal rotation and adduction is crucial.
One of my top exercises for glute strength is the Standing Fire Hydrant. The Standing Fire Hydrant with a loop forces the stance leg to prevent femoral internal rotation and adduction, which are the culprit of many knee injuries. This exercise is performed for static holds, which helps facilitate the encoding phase for cognitive process, which is crucial for motor memory.
Quadriceps Strength: Spanish Squats
Another common sports injury, particularly in sports like basketball and volleyball, is patellar tendinopathy, or “Jumper’s Knee.”
One of the main culprits behind this injury is inadequate quadriceps strength. One of our favorite exercises that we use to help decrease the risk for patellar tendinopathy is the Spanish Squat.
The Spanish Squat allows us to load the quadriceps muscle without increasing the compression force on the patellofemoral joint. We are able to do this because of the vertical shin aspect of the movement, which increases the tension within the lower extremity but not the actual joint itself.
Ankle Mobility: Ankle Self Mobilization
One of the biggest culprits we see behind knee dysfunction is inadequate ankle mobility.
Studies have shown that following ankle injuries, the ability to dorsiflex (bend) the ankle is decreased if left unaddressed. The decreased dorsiflexion leads to changes in the loading of the Achilles’ tendon and also increases the demands placed on the knee due to compensation for the lack of motion available at the ankle.
There are several reasons why dorsiflexion range of motion can be limited, such as soft tissue (muscle) or joint restrictions. In this video, we go over how to perform self mobilization to help decrease joint restrictions at the ankle and help improve ankle dorsiflexion range of motion.
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