Posts

How To Make Knees Great Again!

Jean Claude Van Damme doing mid split in movie Lion Heart (I think). Splits are a great antidote to a fragile knee.  Photo courtesy: eljueves.es

Fragile.

What a “dumb” joint.

I heard one of my 8th grade hitters, who took a break from lessons to play football, busted his knee requiring surgery, and would be out for 6-8 weeks.

Another one of my 7th grade hitters busted his knee playing soccer, requiring minor surgery.

And yet another hitter of mine, a Junior in High School, tweaked his knee playing basketball at school, and will be undergoing an X-Ray (which will probably turn up negative), followed by an MRI to be safe.

And btw, all these hitters are smart young men, who have performed above and beyond for their age in the batter’s box.  I frequently tell my hitters, you’re no good to your team sitting on the “shelf”, so take care of your body.

So, what’s the answer?

Now, we can’t pull out ye ol’ pocket crystal ball, reveal an injury before it happens, and avoid it.  But…we…can…prevent them!  We’ll get into what we can do in a moment…but first,

Studies show today’s young athletes are sitting 80% of their day.  Athletes are specializing in one sport earlier and earlier in life.  If you read my recent post on 4 Tips On How To Train Springy Fascia, then you’ll remember the first rule of Fight Club is…ahem…training fascia is, to vary training vectors (i.e. be varied in different movement planes of motion)Healthy fascia HATES moving in the same way over and over again – like a 2yo, it gets bored easily!

On top of all that, observe the following reality about young female athletes from a New England Baptist Hospital post titled, “Why Do Female Athletes Suffer More ACL Injuries Than Males?”:

“High school female athletes in the United States suffer 20,000-80,000 ACL injuries per year. The issue isn’t only that female athletes are prone to these potentially season-ending injuries: the National Institutes of Health reports that female athletes are two to eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts.”

For young female athletes, factors that contribute to this increased risk are the differences in sports undertaken and in gender anatomy and structure (duh!).  The truth is, a wider lumbo-pelvic-hip complex puts the knees in a structurally compromised position.

For all athletes, the knee is considered a “dumb” joint, oftentimes stuck, or rendered unstable, between two immobile joints – the hip and ankle.  When the “bookends” are tight, stiff, and immobile, then the knee becomes unstable or “fragile”.

So, what can we do to prevent injury, minimize damage, or treat a knee injury?  I wanted to share a list of credible FREE resources parents and coaches can use to reference for knee speed bumps…

  1.  Overcome Knee Pain: Exercises and Solutions for Crunchy Knees (Gold Medal Body Fitness)
  2. Speedy Recovery? Ice Bath Benefits Not What They Seem (Hitting Performance Lab)
  3. 5 Simple Solutions For Anterior Knee Pain (Breaking Muscle)
  4. How To Do The Splits: Proven Hip and Leg Stretches for Splits (Gold Medal Body Fitness)
  5. Are You Weak In The Knees? (Breaking Muscle)
  6. Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD is one of my favorite resources for troubleshooting injuries.  Click Here for a YouTube link to view the videos he’s done on dealing with knees.
  7. Identifying the What and Why of Valgus Collapse: Part 1: Identifying the What of Valgus Collapse (FunctionalMovement.com)
  8. CLICK HERE for a YouTube video of Charlie Weingroff demonstrating how to fix knee valgus using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).
  9. The Do’s and Don’ts of Training Squats (CharlesPoliquin.com)
  10. Building Your Arsenal: 5 Exercises for Bulletproof Knees (GymnasticBodies.com)
  11. How to build Super Knees (Forum Topic at GymnasticBodies.com)
  12. Have a favorite training website with an overwhelming amount of info on it?  Here’s a trick to filter information for what you’re looking for…go to Google, type the following into search engine: “site:<<insert actual website w/out www. here>> + keyword…for example “site:gymnasticbodies.com knees”
  13. PAY-FOR Local in-a-town-near-you Programs: Yoga and Pilates
  14. PAY-FOR Online Program #1: https://gmb.io/ff/#choose (I have no affiliation with this program)
  15. PAY-FOR Online Program #2: https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/gb-courses/stretch-series/#titleBar

If your athletes move better, then they’ll perform better.  The knee is considered a “dumb” joint, so make knees SMART (aka “antifragile”) again!

This is the second part to the “Why Your Balance Fails (Not What You Think)”  three part series about balance. I’ll be discussing a fairly common reason for balance issues around the ankle. In the

Photo courtesy: PeterJohnson.co.uk

Photo courtesy: PeterJohnson.co.uk

following post, we’ll go over:

  • Billy’s story,
  • What can be the long term results of an ankle sprain,
  • How do we check for and train for lack of balance, and
  • How does this affect hitting…

 

Billy’s Story

Billy was a high school runner and during a training run he twisted his ankle. He didn’t seek treatment, but he did stay off his ankle and iced it. A few weeks later he tried running again and noticed that his ankle felt weak and unstable.

I examined him and found out that he had an unstable ankle.

 

What is the Long-Term Results of an Ankle Sprain?

Most people have sprained their ankle. It is the most common injury in the human body. Most cases seem to heal uneventfully. However, some nerve fibers will become injured resulting in a less effective sensor, resulting in instability.

The medical term for this is Articular Deafferentiation which means:  The joint does not send a signal to the brain as to its position.

It has been thought that the instability is due to stretched ligaments, but recent studies have shown that the muscle reaction time is slower in functionally unstable ankles.

 

6-Steps on How to Check for This…

Watch the video below for a demonstration:

  1. Stand in a doorway
  2. Place the hands in the door jamb so that if you fall you can catch yourself
  3. Stand on one foot
  4. Move your hands a few inches from the door jamb
  5. Close your eyes
  6. Have someone time how long you can maintain your balance without having to touch the door jamb.

What is Normal?

Normal for non athletes is 10 seconds. You should be better than normal.  You should be able to maintain your balance for 30 seconds or more.

How do we improve it?

Practice standing in the doorway with your eyes closed for 3 minutes every day. There should be steady and consistent improvement.  To further improve on the doorway balance exercise, you can do one of two things (watch the next two videos for a demonstration):

  1. Try getting up on the ball of the foot and then lowering yourself maintaining balance.

 

OR:

2. Raising the knee and lowering it.

How Does this Affect Hitting?

When the hitter steps forward with the front foot, there is no weight on the front foot when it is off the ground, it is all on the back foot.  Since the  body weight is in front of the back foot, and supported on the back foot, the body moves forwards.  If there is wobble of the ankle, the body wobbles and the ball  appears to have movement.  At the end of linear movement, body weight is shifted to the front foot.

When the weight is evenly distributed on both feet, it should mark the end of linear motion and the start of rotational motion.  During hip rotation, the majority of weight is shifted onto the front foot and the front leg straightens.  If the front ankle is unstable at this important time of the swing,  there may be a slight wobble.

Remember that only ¼” of a difference is required to change a home run to a long fly ball.

(Joey Myers Comment: I love this simple exercise.  These are good for EVERY athlete.  I sprain my own ankle during Fall Ball my Freshman year in college.  And shockingly, none of this was prescribed to me then…at the Division One college level!!!  I’m currently doing this exercise myself after reading the article…thanks Doc!  This is what I call a small detail that nets BIG results.)

CLICK HERE for Part-3 to the Why Balance Fails Series titled “Crucial Way To Land On The Foot”.