Strengthening Exercises: The Knee
The following steps helped me towards a full recovery after an impact injury to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) of my right knee.
Step One: Stationary Bike. It is essential to work the supporting muscles and ligaments of the knee without impact or stress. Those without full flexibility can initially use a simple to and fro motion. Once a full turning circle of the pedals is possible, recommended distance and repetitions with no or little resistance will aid the return of flexibility and motion to the knee. Begin with the saddle positioned to allow full extension of the leg. My specialist first advised 20 minute sets, building up to 30 minutes combined with raised resistance and gradual lowering of the saddle. The bike also helps in maintaining aerobic fitness levels.
Step Two: Leg Extensions. Aimed at strengthening the quadriceps, leg extensions can easily be carried out at home. Sitting with knees bent, slowly extend the leg until straight and hold for five seconds. Return the leg to the starting point in a controlled and deliberate movement. Three sets of 10 repetitions with resistance incrementally built-in using ankle weights.
Step Three: Hamstring Curls. As with the quadriceps, the hamstrings are essential supporting muscles of the knee. Lying stomach down, extend the knees whilst keeping the pelvis pressed to the floor. Slowly and with control, bring the heels to the buttocks and hold for three seconds. Again, with control, slowly return to the fully extended position. Build repetitions around one, two and three sets of 10.
Step Four: Half Squats. Standing with feet slightly wider than the shoulders, maintaining a straight back at all times, squat slowly and deliberately to 45 degrees. Return to standing with a slow, controlled movement. Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions. When you feel ready and strong enough to progress, increase the squat depth to 90 degrees. Eventually moving through to single-leg squats.
Step Five: Running. Once you are confident of the return of full strength and range of motion in your knee, it is time to get back out on the training field. Beginning with light jogging and progressing to half speed 50m sprints is the first aim. Followed by a gradual build up of both distance and speed combined with running in both a figure of 8 and zig-zag pattern.
My own timescale of rehabilitation, from injury to full return to fitness and playing football competitively again has taken 10 weeks. It is important to note that I received my recovery directions from my own sports physiotherapist, likewise, you should always follow the guidelines of your own specialist.
Sports injuries are by nature person specific and the road to recovery can be arduous, yet with the right advice and effort, a return to fitness does not have to be out of sight. Talk to your doctor or specialist, listen to your body, have patience, prepare for exercise and work hard. After all, if I can do it, so can you!