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Healthbeat: Proper training can cut knee injury risk
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With the school sports seasons in high gear, it is time to take a closer look at the female knee injury epidemic.

As mentioned last month, ACL injures occur four to six times more frequently in female athletes than male athletes. It’s also estimated that 1 in 10 collegiate female athletes, and 1 in 100 high school athletes, will sustain a serious knee injury every year. Training programs have proven to be beneficial in helping to reduce these season-ending injuries.

One such study has shown that through a specific training program, female athletes have decreased their risk for knee injury by 300 to 400 percent compared to those who did not complete these training activities. The majority of the training program focused on double leg and single leg jumping and hopping activities, while also incorporating a dynamic warm-up and strength/speed/agility activities.

The overall goals of each training sessions involved:

  • Reducing reaction dominance in the knee when landing.
  • Teaching athletes to us their quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles less and their hamstring (back of the thigh) muscles more when landing.
  • Training athletes to use both legs equally during with athletic activities.
  • Jumping and hopping activities are simple and can be performed without any specific equipment. Some of the jumps include side-to-side cone jumps; tuck jumps; broad jumps; single leg hop and hold; squat jumps; and bounding activities.
  • Side-to-side cutting, ladder drills and directed movements can be used to improve sport-specific speed and agility skills. Lastly, strengthening the core and hip muscles can help to provide a stronger base which serves to protect the knee during jumping, landing and cutting activities.

We frequently create individualized training plans that use those exercises for athletes, both male and female, who visit The Rehabilitation Institute. It is important to note that these types of programs will not eliminate female knee injuries completely, but will hopefully reduce the likelihood of injury.

Jim Hlavacek MS, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at The Rehabilitation Institute, 597 S. Enota Drive NE, Gainesville; 770-219-8200, www.nghs.com/rehab. His column appears monthly.

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