Most common of all Skiing Injuries- knee ligament sprains and strains
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
These occur most commonly when you’ve twisted your knee whilst ‘sitting in the back seat’ ie, leaning your weight back over your heels which puts the ligament is on full tension and risking a tear when you then put another (rotatory) movement through your knee.
If it’s a serious tear, and your knee swelled up, and still feels very unstable, its advisable to get a scan to identify if you’ve fully ruptured the ACL and if there’s merit in surgical repair. We can refer you for a private scan if needed.
If your knee is swollen and painful and feels a bit precarious but not very unstable, you may have a partial tear or strain and you’ll need to start some gentle stabilisation exercises and progress onto strengthening exercises.
Exercises to protect the torn ACL
Here’s how you can improve your quadriceps muscle strength so your kneecap slides evenly in its groove:
- Sitting or lying: place a rolled up towel underneath your knee to bend it slightly (around 15 degrees). Gently straighten your knee to press the towel down and hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat 10 times per 2 sets (of 10). Your vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) will thank you for this – it is active in the last 15 degrees of knee straightening.
- Lying on your back, point your toes up and outwards (very important when targeting vastas medialis), lift your whole leg about 6 inches from the floor and hold the position for 10-20 seconds. Repeat 10 times per 2 sets. Priming the injured knee muscles to help you balance and reduce risk of re-injury
- Single leg stands (as long as this is not too painful and/or you haven’t been advised otherwise by a traumatology consultant): stand on both feet with a minimal degree of bend at the knees. Slowly lift the non-injured leg off the floor while you make sure the hip level stays even on both sides. Maintain the balance for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.
- Squat against the wall (you will feel your quads): stand with your back against a wall with your feet pointing forward on a hip wide stance. slowly slide your back downwards allowing for a gradual knee bend. You will find yourself in a sitting position but don’t go too low (keep your hips higher than your knee) otherwise coming back up will be too strenuous! Hold the position for 15-20 seconds and slide up again. Repeat 10 times.
- Sideways lunges (more dynamic yet not straining your ACL): stand with your feet close together, aim for a side step and alternate this on both sides for 10 times (don’t cheat – this means 10 sidesteps per side so count 1 every other step!). Don’t aim for a sharp angle of the knee when you lunge sideways, especially at the early stages – increase the knee bend of a few degrees per day.
All of the above exercises should be performed daily or twice a day if possible. This doesn’t replace a full physiotherapy rehabilitation protocol but it is a great, simple backup routine.
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