I’ve worked with numerous athletes as a physical therapist and athletic trainer, and it always amazes me how easily it is to tear an ACL in a non-contact scenario. Especially, since a majority of tears could have been prevented with proper jumping and landing technique.
It all leads back to the mechanics of jumping. When a basketball player squats down to jump, it’s common to see knees that “cave in”. This increases stress on the knee joint and the ligaments within (primarily the ACL). This added stress is primarily due to weakness in the hips that are unable to help stabilize the rest of the leg. Below are some exercises to improve an athlete’s strength and jumping technique to decrease the risk of an ACL tear.
Standing hip abduction: While standing, raise one leg so you are standing on one leg. Keep the knee straight on the leg that is hovering. This forces the hip muscles to do all the lifting and not just bending your knee. Hold for 30 seconds without touching your foot down or holding on to anything with your hands for support. To make this exercise harder, move your floating leg straight out to the side and then back to the middle without touching the ground. When this becomes easy to do, add a resistance band around the ankles.
Sidestepping with resistance band: Place resistance loop directly above your knees. Squat down into an athletic/defensive stance. Step sideways while maintaining tension on the band and stay in athletic stance the whole time. Move at a slow pace and step out more than a normal step to really work those hip muscles.
Jumping/Landing (with resistance band): Place circular resistance band just above your knees. Squat down as you normally would and accelerate to jump off the ground. The purpose of the band is to remind yourself to keep your knees apart and not crash in. The landing phase of the jump is the most important part of improving technique because the ACL is most likely to tear upon contact with the ground.
Squat jump with mirror: To create good techniques that are long-lasting it is important to do them hundreds of times. Repetition is key! That being said, grab a mirror where you can see how you land when you complete a squat jump. Practice over and over again while maintaining good form. Start slow between repetitions and work your way up to game speed.
If you are a basketball player and notice “caving in” of your knees when you jump, you may benefit from physical therapy to establish great technique and increase your strength to stabilize your whole leg.
There are many more ways to help prevent an ACL tear! Reach out to your physical therapist to get advice to ensure there are no injuries during your basketball season or call us for a FREE CONSULTATION!
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