By Lauren Betancourt
Basketball is a demanding sport that requires you to run, jump and change direction quickly. Knee injuries are one of the most serious basketball injuries and can sideline a player for an entire season. Knee injuries can happen because of overuse or trauma. Your workouts should strengthen your knees and improve your movement technique, decreasing your likelihood of injury while playing basketball. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen, particularly if you have previously suffered a knee injury or have persistent or worsening knee pain.
Resistance training strengthens the ligaments that hold your knee joint together, decreasing the likelihood of a tear. It also strengthens the muscles that surround your knees and provide joint stability, like your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus medius and adductors. A well-rounded resistance-training program challenges your knees in every plane of motion and addresses strength, power and muscular endurance over the course of a training cycle. Exercises that place more weight on one leg help you improve your movement quality while you get stronger — so incorporate split squats, single-leg squats, stepups and lunges into your program. Do not progress to a more difficult exercise or increase your resistance unless you have mastered the technique of your current exercise. Consult a strength-and-conditioning professional for best results and to learn proper form for any exercise of which you are unsure.
Your knee stability and health doesn’t just depend on the physical strength of your joint. Your knees will feel stronger if you can control them well and perform technically sound movements. Genu valgum, or the knocking of your knees inward, is a movement dysfunction that increases your risk of knee injury, Dr. Brian Bowyer warns on the NetWellness website. Make sure that your knees don’t knock inward during squats, split squats, jumps and other lower-body movements. Place a stretch band around your knees to help you keep them aligned.
Corrective exercises can help improve muscle activation and movement technique. Every athlete is different and should be evaluated for her specific weaknesses, but common corrective exercises for healthy knees include the unilateral stiff-legged deadlift and band walks. Practice unilateral stiff-legged deadlifts by leaning forward on one leg, stretching the other leg behind you, as if you were trying to pick something up off the ground. Perform band walks by walking sideways with a band wrapped around your knees, “Stack” magazine instructs. Incorporate these exercises into your warm-up or cool-down period.
Exercises in the gym help you strengthen your knees and improve your movement technique, but you need to translate these improvements to the basketball court. Agility exercises using a speed ladder, hurdles and cones allow you to practice real-life movements with correct technique and in a low-stress environment. An agile athlete can also manipulate his body to avoid a situation that would otherwise result in injury. Perform these exercises under the supervision of someone who can evaluate and correct your movement technique.
- The Hughston Clinic; Common Basketball Injuries; Patrick O’Connell, M.D.
- “Essentials of Strength and Conditioning”; Thomas R. Baechle, et al.; 2008
- NetWellness; Exercises for Genu Valgum; Brian L. Bowyer, M.D.; Dec. 4, 2006
- “Stack” magazine: Monster Walk with Lateral Resistance Band
- Eastern Illinois University Athletics: Lower Body Strength Exercises
- Perform Better; Agility Training for Athletic Performance; John F. Graham