What You “Kneed” to Know to Limit Injury with Winter Sports

Posted on December 12, 2017

‘Tis the season for darker, colder, and wetter weather.  For many of us, this means we move our exercise indoors for soccer, basketball, volleyball, and many other sports.  For others, we embrace the cold and ski or snowboard.  While these activities may seem quite different, they are similar in that they all require quick side-to-side movements.

At Corvallis and Albany Sport and Spine Physical Therapy, we see many patients who lack muscle control while performing these side-to-side movements, causing excess strain on the knee and resulting pain.  The primary cause of pain results from allowing your knees to collapse inward toward each other into a “knock knee” position when landing or transitioning from one movement to the other.  There are many factors that can contribute to this, “knock knee landing problem”; the primary problem is lack of strength and ability to control movement.  This is usually due to weakness or imbalance of the thigh, hip, and core muscles.  These muscles include the quadriceps, hamstring, hip, and core stabilizing muscles.

How to recognize this movement problem:

Observe any movement requiring your knees to bend.  For example, getting in and out of a chair.  Do your knees stay in line with your feet, or do they fall inside your feet toward each other?   If you have a hard time with this, then you can definitely improve your strength and control.  In my experience, usually a single leg squat is difficult and you can still benefit from improving your strength and knee control, to improve performance and decrease your risk for injury. Check out this video to see what I’m talking about:

What to do about it:

As mentioned in the video, your knee muscles don’t have the best ability to control that side to side movement, so we have to go up and strengthen the hip to control it, specifically your gluteus medius muscle.  Here’s our three favorite exercises to get going on that glut med muscle:

Finally, knee control isn’t all about the hip.  It’s also important to have super strong quad and calf muscles; there are also some foot and ankle motions that can contribute as well. Focusing on the hip will at least get you headed in the right direction, but applying some of these more functional quad based exercises will teach you how to apply that strength and work on your quad strength as well:

Finally, being able to apply this control with jumping movements straight forward and back and then with directions is the final step to do your best to improve your performance and reduce risk for injury with these sports:

We hope you find these tips and exercises helpful to control your knee better and thus move better with less pain!

Dr. Dane Happeny, PT, DPT, OCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist


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