One of the most common serious injuries that athletes experience are injuries to their ACL. With that being the case, one of the most important responsibilities that we have as strength & conditioning professionals is to help our athletes be physically prepared for their sport in such a way that an ACL injury is less likely. We obviously can’t completely prevent injuries from happening, but we can have a huge impact on the likelihood of an injury occurring, especially an ACL injury. One of the most common techniques that is used to train the knee to supposedly prevent injury to it is to have our athletes always focus on keeping the knee over the foot/toe. It’s what I was taught in school and different books, and it’s how most of us are taught to help prevent knee injuries in athletes. However, when you look at athletes when they are actually playing their sport, it’s obvious that there has to be a better way, as the knee is very infrequently just in a straight line over the toe/foot. Here are just a few examples:
As you examine these examples and others it becomes clear that the knee is constantly diving in and out as athletes are participating in their sport. When not involving contact, the majority of ACL injuries come from the inability to decelerate the body before exploding in another direction. This makes it imperative for us as strength & conditioning professionals to train our athletes with the understanding that as the athletes are decelerating their body like in the three examples above, the knee will never just stay over the toe/foot, and that we need to train the knee to be able to handle all the situations it will be put into during the course of competition. Or in other words, the knee will move in all three planes of motion in sport(not just sagittal), so we need to train it accordingly. Not only is instructing and training our athletes to keep their knee over their toe/foot not sufficient to help them avoid knee injuries, I would contend that by teaching their bodies to only move in such a way during training, when their knee is inevitabley forced to do something different in competition, it will be even more likely that they’ll experience a serious knee injury as their knee has not been prepared to be put in such positions.
This is a link to a video discussion with Gary Gray and Joe Tofferi on the subject. They do a much better job of discussing this subject than I can, and are two of the best in the business. In future entries I will discuss specific methods to help prevent knee injuries, especially ACL injuries, in an effective manner.