We are heavy into football, soccer and basketball seasons and the ski season will be here in no time. All athletes – young and old – are susceptible to suffering a debilitating Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. I thought this would be a good time to discuss what athletes can do to minimize their risk for this injury.
The American Physical Therapy Association urges athletes to adopt the following program (exercises listed below) that includes specialized stretching, strengthening, agility and jumping exercises to help lower the risk of ACL injuries.
One study conducted on 1,435 NCAA Division 1 female soccer athletes found the exercises listed below had an overall ACL injury rate 41 percent lower than the control group. That is impressive results! So if you know an athlete, cut this article out for them and have them perform these exercises before each practice or game. You may save them weeks of pain, surgery and rehabilitation!
Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent and attempt to maintain your balance for 15 to 30 seconds. Keep your hip, knee, and foot aligned with hip over knee over foot. Do 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions on each foot. As this task becomes easy, make it more challenging by increasing the time you stand on your foot and by standing on a soft surface, such as a pillow or foam pad.
Stand on one foot on a solid and sturdy box or a step with the other foot off the edge. With your hands on your hips, bend your stance leg and lower your body down until your opposite heel, on the hanging leg, touches the ground and then push back up. Keep your hips level and your hip, knee and foot aligned while you execute this exercise. Do 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions on each foot. If you feel pain in the front of your knee, select a lower step height or discontinue this exercise.
Lean up against a wall with your back against it and your feet 12-24 inches away from the wall. Bend your knees and slide down the wall until your knees are directly over your ankles. If your knees are positioned over your toes, you have squatted too far. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds and push back up to standing. Do 1 set of 5-10 repetitions. To increase the challenge of this exercise, increase the time you hold the squat position and/or add a resistance band around the top of your knees. If you experience pain in the front of your knee, try decreasing the depth of your squat or discontinue this exercise.
Lay on your back with one knee bent slightly and one leg straight. Using the bent leg as your support leg, elevate your trunk and hips, bringing your shoulders, hips and leg in a straight line. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. Do 1-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Stand with your feet together and step forward with one leg, bending your knee to 90 degrees after your foot hits the ground. Make sure the front knee remains over the ankle and does not go past step foot. Continue moving your body forward by bringing your back (stationary) leg forward, then together with your step leg. Alternate legs with each step. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and jump forward, landing on both feet. Focus on taking small, controlled jumps and landing with equal weight distribution on each leg. Concentrate on soft, quiet landings and maintaining your lower extremities in good alignment, with your hips over your knees, and knees over your feet. Make sure your knees do not come together when you land from this jump. Over time, this exercise can be progressed by increasing the length of the jump. This exercise should be monitored either by a partner or with a mirror.
Yours in health and fitness,
Don’t forget! – our Girlfriends Half Marathon is on October 13th. Encourage a girlfriend to walk or run it with you and help raise money for Breast Cancer research. Early Bird rates until early September.
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