Knee injuries account for a quarter of all sports injuries. After puberty, girls have an overall risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury of 1 in 50. In college, women are 3 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than men. Therefore, it is very important that female athletes act now to protect their knees. Whether you are a walker, competitive athlete, or weekend cyclist, the basic rules of knee care apply. They include strengthening muscles (particularly the hamstrings and glutes for girls / women), increasing flexibility, using proper technique, cutting excess weight, and knowing when to increase or decrease activity that puts pressure on the knee. This article lists 15 ways to protect your knees and joint structure, as well as providing basic exercises to strengthen and stretch your body’s largest joint and surrounding musculature.
15 rules for knee care:
1. Train with a specific functional training program for women, especially for pivot sports.
2. Work with a strength coach who stays abreast of the unique training issues of the female athlete, particularly anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prevention strategies.
3. Lose the extra pounds and maintain an ideal body weight. Every pound of extra weight you carry puts four extra pounds of pressure on your knee when you walk.
4. Check your posture. You may have kyphosis (rounded shoulders), lordosis (sloping back), scoliosis (curvature of the spine), flat feet, or other postural problems that can affect gait and put extra pressure on your knees.
5. Train the core, the weakest link in the body. It also trains the back and hips to play in an athletic stance, the knee protection position.
6. Prepare properly for your sport. Start a strength and conditioning program 8-10 weeks before the season or a new activity. Make sure plyometrics and balance and agility training are part of your overall program. Avoid actions such as full squats, where the hips drop below the knees, running downhill, and climbing stairs two at a time.
7. Learn to jump and land properly. Jump straight like an arrow and land light as a feather, foot to heel with hips, knees, and ankles flexed. Maintain a straight, neutral back position. Keep your chest on your knees and your knees on your feet. Land on the ball of your foot and sink your heel. Always perform jump training exercises on the proper surface, for example: land on mats or a wooden floor.
8. Always be aware of using impeccable technique during training, especially jump training.
9. Train functionally to improve performance and prevent injury. Functional meaning, closed chain activities (feet on the ground) that mimic the skills you would use in your sport. Most of your training should be done with exercise machines. Start with body-weight activities and then progress to light-weight external resistance exercises. Once the form is mastered with basic functional training exercises, you advance to more advanced forms of strength training, eg. using heavier weights or training with the Olympic lifts.
10. Improve agility and reaction times. Women contract their muscles more slowly than men, and women take longer to generate maximum force. Train more like tennis players. They stay in an athletic stance, stay crouched, and move with smaller, faster steps. They also know how to stop, cut, turn, and turn. You don’t see many female tennis players tearing their ACL.
11. Strengthen your hamstrings, not just your quads. The hamstrings (back of the thigh) are typically weaker than the quadriceps in female athletes. The hamstrings help stabilize the ACL and can also help improve vertical jump.
12. Protect yourself against overtraining and overuse. Avoid intensified or prolonged workouts for long periods of time that create additional friction on the joint and increase the risk of overuse injuries.
13. Minimize knee strain while cycling. Make sure your bike seat is at the proper height and avoid high gears.
14. Check your athletic shoes. Worn or poorly fitting shoes can put your knees at risk. Outside of your workouts, avoid wearing high heels regularly.
15. Get help with alignment. Orthotics, custom-made foot supports, can help correct foot or leg alignment problems.
Do exercises that strengthen your knee. Do these exercises to strengthen the muscles (quads, hamstrings, and glutes) that help stabilize and protect your knees:
1. One Leg Quarter Curves: Holding onto a wall, lift and extend one leg forward, slowly lower yourself a quarter of the way down by bending the other knee. Lean your hips back as if you were going to sit in a chair. Hold for five seconds, slowly straighten, repeat 10 times and switch legs.
two. Straight leg raises: Lie on your back, bend one knee with your foot on the floor; Slowly raise your straight leg about 12 inches off the floor, keeping your hips and lower back on the floor; hold for five seconds, then lower slowly; Repeat 10 times, then switch legs (add light ankle weights if comfortable, avoid this exercise if you have back problems).
3. Standing squats: This exercise has been shown to increase vertical jump and help create a joint contraction of the quadriceps and hamstrings. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower yourself into a squat position with your hips moving back as if you were sitting in a chair. The knees should be in line with the feet, not the “shaky” knees. Avoid excessive forward lean, keep your chest up, and look straight ahead. It is important to keep your heels on the ground and not let your knees protrude from your toes.
Four. Lunges: Stand upright, with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Perform a comfortable forward lunge with one leg, keeping the knee on the foot and behind the toes. Sit in the lunge until the knee of the trailing leg almost touches the ground. Keep your torso upright, chest up, and chin up. Push the heel of the lead leg up and back to the starting position and then repeat the action with the other leg.
5. Stability Ball Leg Curl: This exercise is great for strengthening your hamstrings. Lie on your back on an exercise mat, hands and arm down at your sides, place both heels directly on a stability ball. Make sure the stability ball fits your height. Lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from head to ankles. Perform a leg curl, placing the ball on your buttocks, return to the starting position, and then repeat. Keep your hips up the entire time for 12-15 reps. Do 1-3 sets.
Stretches for the quadriceps and hamstrings:
1. Standing Quad Stretch: When standing, reach out with your right hand and pull the heel of your right foot toward your buttocks. Keep your right knee pointing down. Hold for 20-30 seconds, switch legs. No rebounds.
two. Standing hamstring stretch: Stand in front of an exercise bench, place the heel of one leg on the bench. Keep both knees soft (slightly bent). Bend at the hips, keep your chest up, and reach up to your toes with both hands. Hold for 20-30 seconds, switch legs. No rebounds.