It’s a very simplified way of looking at things but it does often work out this way. The knee joint needs to have a great deal of stability in all directions to prevent injury. If the ankle and hip joints above and below are moving well then the knee joint will more likely stay within it’s accepted range of motion during athletic movements. If the ankle and/or hip are stiff then the knee may just have to go outside of it’s normal boundaries to land from a jump or decelerate while cutting. This is where things can go south in a hurry!
There is plenty of research out there in the medical and physical therapy journals showing that strength deficits can lead to knee injuries, and in particular ACL tears. Years ago the main concern was the ration of strength between the quadriceps and hamstrings, which if it was below a certain level it could inhibit an athlete's ability to decelerate correctly leading to injury.
Lately the focus has been more on the hips and muscles of the ‘core’ and how weakness or lack of control in those areas can contribute to injury. I’ll get more into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ in another article but it is a reality that needs to be addressed.
At On Track PT and Performance, we know that a comprehensive strength program must be implemented to assist in the prevention of ACL injuries. Quality movement is critical for effective strength training as well. Being able to combine these qualities is what we do best, and definitely one of my favorite things to talk about so more to come for sure!
It is also well documented that female athletes land and cut differently than the male athletes. Women tend to land stiffer and higher than the men who typically land in deeper hip and knee flexion angles. Stiffer and higher landings are more dangerous as far as the knee joint is concerned.
Strength and movement quality again play a large role in this. Some athletes can’t even get into a good position to perform complex athletic movements. Big problem!
Many don’t have the strength to get into the proper positions. Another big problem.
As the athletic activities get faster, more complex, impose higher forces, etc it becomes more and more challenging to perform them using good technique. Fortunately all of these qualities can be addressed through physical therapy and proper training techniques.
Check out the video below filmed by a good friend of mine Joe Heiler. We both use these methods to start teaching athletes to jump correctly using box jumps. The nice thing about landing on a box is that you don’t really have to come all the way back down. Much less strain on the knees and an easy way to work on jumping and landing technique.