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Strength and Conditioning To Prevent Knee Injuries in Water Skiers
By Jennifer Ward and An Truong, ATC
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Knee injuries, its not if but when. In an article written by Weyman, D.C. and Wasserburger, M.D., entitled "Functional Biomechanics and Rehabilitation of Water Skiing Injuries," the authors state that the lower extremities is the most common area to receive injury during any type of waterskiing at 35.3% of all injuries. Of those 35.3% of injuries, 17.3% occurred to the knee joint. The impact during jumping, twisting motions of trick skiing or wakeboarding, or during falls in any event can cause soft tissue damage to the meniscal or ligamentous structures of the knee. Prevention of injury to the knee joint then becomes vital for any skier who wishes to remain competitive. A good strengthening and conditioning program is an important ingredient to the success of preventative care. Strengthening and conditioning should focus on musculature of the lower extremity. This includes the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle, the anterior tibialis (found in front of the shin), the hamstrings (found behind the upper leg), and the quadriceps (found on the front of the upper leg).

Begin the your program by focusing on core exercises and balancing the joint. Utilize the SwissBall (big inflatable balls) in core exercises. Have the athlete begin by trying to kneel on the SwisBall on his or her knees. Tighten the lower stomach while maintaining an erect posture. Once balance can be maintained for several minutes without any problems, more advanced maneuvers can be attempted such as standing on the ball. Be sure you have the supervision of a trainer at your side. Proprioceptive (joint balancing) work can be accomplished by mastering the wobble (or BAPS) boards, or by working with the Indo Board. Begin the athlete on simple exercises such as SwissBall bridging, SwissBall bridging with leg lifts, or medicine balls passes while seated on SwissBall.

Once the athlete demonstrated good proprioception and core stability, then begin leg strengthening. Use exercises such as toe raises off a step to strengthening the calf and anterior tibialis muscles (this also works to improve ankle strength simultaneously). Exercises such as lunges (in the lunge never let the knee pass the ankle), step ups, and squats are great for strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings. Begin with athlete working against his or her own body weight. As this becomes easier, add dumbbells to the workout.

Keep in mind that proprioception should still be addressed in the conditioning program. While the athlete is kneeling or standing on the SwissBall, have them hold onto a rope anchored to support that simulates the motion of being pulled by a boat. Continue adding proprioceptive qualities to the workout routine. This can be accomplished by having the athlete perform squats on an Indo Board, or introducing what I call the rocker squats. Have the athlete perform stationary lunges while the back leg is on a SwissBall. Alternatively, have the back on a bench while the front leg is on the wobble board. Have the athlete do toe raises while standing on a block of wood that has been placed on a trampoline. Single leg bent-over rows (using dumbbells) are great if done on the same block of wood that has been placed on the trampoline. Adding proprioceptive qualities to the exercises is not only beneficial to the athlete’s maintaining their stability, but also adds difficulty to the exercise.

Because the goal of the strengthening program is not to see how much stronger and how much weight the athlete can attain, the program should not reflect this goal. Keep the weights lighter, while keeping the repetitions higher. These will effectively strengthening the athlete without increasing his or her bulk. A standard 3 to 5 day routine is recommended, with each session lasting for a duration of 1 to 1 _ hours. Cardiovascular fitness can also be incorporated in the form of swimming, jogging, or cycling. A good strengthening and conditioning program on a continued basis is the most important factor in preventative care of injuries.

Jennifer Ward and An Troung A.T.C. are the senior trainers at the C.S.I Performance Enhancement Clinic in Westlake Village, California. They specialize in strength and conditioning of the elite athlete. All programs are sports specific. www.Chiropractic-sports.com

Have you ever experienced knee injuries from waterskiing? Post to the forum.

Article and photos courtesy of Dr. Terry Weyman - www.chiropractic-sports.com

Thanks to Jim Cara for making this material possible.


Forever In Your Wake,

Julie Bostian
Waterskiing / Wakeboarding Guide

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