jumping incorrectly

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries are extremely common in youth sports today.  Although it may seem like these injuries would be mostly caused by collisions with other players (i.e. getting hit or tackled), most times these injures are of the non-contact variety and occur when coming down from a jump or cutting/pivoting. 

An ACL injury involves a lot of cost and a lengthy rehab process, so a great deal of research effort has been directed towards looking at how we can prevent these injuries.  One way is to more carefully examine how our athletes are landing when they come down from a jump.  Ideally, a “perfect” landing would involve equal weight distribution on both the left and right leg, some bending of the knees and hips to absorb force, and the knees tracking over the feet (i.e. knees don’t buckle in). 

Often, due to issues with strength, pain, or just some deficits in coordination, athletes may drift from this optimal landing pattern.  Identification of these faulty landing patterns can be helpful both for injury prevention in healthy athletes, as well as to help determine when an athlete is safe to return to sport after ACL reconstruction.

One tool used by physical therapists and athletic trainers to help with this process is the Landing Error Scoring System.  It involves watching an athlete land from the front and side, and identifying specific faults in his or her landing mechanics. 

Some common issues:

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Landing with the knees in valgus (knees buckle inward)

Landing with the knees in valgus (knees buckle inward)

Landing earlier, or with more weight on one leg as compared to the other.

Landing earlier, or with more weight on one leg as compared to the other.  Athletes will often shift weight away from the injured or weaker side.

Landing with knees too straight

Landing with knees too straight – ideally we would like the knee to be bent at about 30 degrees at initial contact, to minimize the risk of the knee going into hyperextension and better allow the muscles to help with force absorption.

 

All of these breakdowns increase stress on the knees and can lead to injury.  Identifying these things early and starting appropriate drills can prevent injury and improve performance.  Slow motions video analysis can be very valuable and help the athlete understand what he or she should be working on, and also help to chart progress. Various free apps are available for your smartphone.

Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) is a physical therapist with the OrthoCarolina Sports Therapy and Wellness Center  Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs.  He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams. 

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