By Ryan Lampe, PT, ATC and Clinic Manager at ApexNetwork Physical Therapy in Breese, IL
It is impossible to try and prevent every type of injury that an athlete may suffer during the specific sports they play. There are certain exercises and activities that can help minimize the risk of injury. A lot of these exercises can be done at home or at your local high school gym.
One of the first things that an athlete needs to do is make sure that they maintain the flexibility in their lower extremities. Far too many athletes have severely tight hamstrings which can help contribute to knee pain even before the athlete gets on the playing field. Hamstring stretches along with gastroc/soleus stretches, and quadriceps stretches will be helpful to the athlete in hopes of minimizing risk of injury.
Many times while children are growing, their bones are growing much faster than their muscles, causing them to be tighter with their flexibility. Stretches should be held for 30 seconds to provide a more static stretch and should be done daily while the child is playing especially during growth phases. Children should stay away from doing ballistic or bouncing stretching to decrease risk of injury. Children also need to really make sure they maintain the strength of their lower extremities especially in the quad and hamstring region. This can be accomplished by doing simple mini squats, straight leg raises, and specific balance exercises.
When athletes progress to jumping activities, the main thing the athlete needs to remember is to try to land with good shock absorption and good body mechanics. Far too many athletes will land in a position where their knees go together thus causing more of a stress in the cruciate ligaments of the knees. Athletes should try to focus on landing with their knee over their second toe with their knees in a bent position which will help with shock absorption. Far too many times athletes’ injuries especially females, are caused by non-contact injuries due to poor landing mechanics. So educating our youth on proper landing mechanics will help minimize the risk of them having a knee injury during their athletic career. As stated earlier, not every knee injury can be completely avoided, but by doing the things discussed above an athlete can help minimize their risk of knee injury when they are playing in a game or in practice.
If you have any questions regarding further exercises on what your young athlete should be doing, please feel free to contact ApexNetwork Physical Therapy in Breese, IL  at 618-623-0580.
A cropped view of a female runner's legs with an injury