7 Tips to Return to Sports After a Knee Ligament Injury
Put your knee ligament injury behind you and return to your favorite sport with ease.
Suffering from knee pain for any athlete is dreadful. It means time off from sports and the strength and skills built have to take a backseat while recovering. Most athletes believe they will be able to perform at the same level when they return to their sport, however, this is a recipe for disaster.
According to Anna Muñoz, Staff Athletic Trainer/Product Education Specialist for DJO Consumer, LLC, says about 90 to 95 percent of injured football players are able to fully recover to pre-injury status if they let their injury properly recover.
In order to avoid re-injuring the already suffering knee, it’s important to take the following necessary steps to keep healthy and get back to your performance level--without pain.
Note: It can take 12 to 18 months (or longer) to recover from an injury. Before beginning any program, it’s important to get cleared from your doctor.
Before jumping into any type of activity, make sure you have enough knee support. There are tons of braces and supportive sleeves that sill keep your knee aligned so when you twist, turn, jump or bend, your ligaments and muscles will have the right support.
Depending on your activity and extent of knee injury will dictate what kind of brace to wear. A simple stabilized knee support is more ideal at this stage to apply compression to the knee.
After any workout it’s important to continue your ice therapy and compression to keep swelling to a minimum and blood flow moving. This will improve your performance and decrease the rate of fatigue of your muscles.
Increase Range of Motion
You’ve stayed off of your knee and have slowly started progression exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments. At this stage you’re able to put weight on the injured knee, but your range of motion may be weak. Try body weight squats, lunges, double leg press, hamstring curls, step ups, bridges, hip abduction, hip extension and calf raises to strengthen the injured knee and open your range of motion.
Work in Different Planes
You walk or run forward, but playing sports you twist, turn, jump and move in all sorts of directions. In order to protect your knee, you need to be comfortable moving in various planes. Run or jog sideways and backwards, gradually progress to a faster pace after a couple weeks of practice. Try lateral lunges or backward lunges, side hops and bear crawls to work in various planes.
Add in Plyometrics
Plyometric drills like hopping, box jumps or agility drills can help increase strength, speed and balance. Start slow and work your way up. Even when your back in your sports program, continue plyometric training. This will keep your balance and agility in-check, which is probably how you first injured your knee—weak balance and agility strength.
Gradually Build Into Sports-Specific Training
Slowly bring sport-specific drills into your workout program to get your body used to moving like that again. Remember to start slow. Run for a few minutes, then walk, and repeat the pattern. Or start with a small box before testing out the larger one for box jumps. Use bodyweight before adding on weights—and progress from there.
Don’t forget to stretch after any workout program. This allows your muscles to recover faster and protect the injury from weakening over time.
And always listen to your body. If you’re knee is starting to act up, back off a bit.