Proper biomechanics and strength in movements are crucial in prevention of injury. Knee injuries are common in sport, including injuries to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in both males and females, however, females have a higher degree of susceptability to this injury due to their proportionately wider hips, increased Q-angles, and diminished hip strength. One of the underlying mechanisms to knee injuries is knee valgus. This is characterized by the knee caving inward and the hip rotating inward, when the hips are flexed. If you picture or have seen someone’s knee caving in when someone squats or plants their foot, this is knee valgus. We usually see knee valgus occur when athletes are on their feet doing some activity which requires eccentric loading of the muscles involved with hip extension. You’ll commonly see valgus collapse when an athlete squats or lunges in the weight room, however, on the field, this occurs when the jump, land, decelerate and change direction.
Weak hips, tight ankles, impaired quad and hamstring function are all things which can contribute to knee valgus. Strengthening the muscles of the hips (Glute maximus and Glute Medius) is crucial to helping to prevent knee injury, especially in the female athlete. Ankle mobility exercises also are a necessity, especially due to the fact that we have our student athletes sit in seats for a majority of the day in school, and on top of that, the sneakers they wear usually have an elevated heel. All of these contribute to shortening of the heel cord, and the development of tight ankles (and hips). Lastly, strengthening of the muscles of the hamstrings, and quadriceps, and making sure all parts of the quadriceps (VMO especially) are balanced in their strength.
Any exercise program that only focuses on strength however is not enough to reduce the risk of injury. Along with strength comes the proper build up of movement patterns and neuromuscular connections. Focusing on proper biomechanics as an athlete eccentrically loads the hips, as they move laterally, plant and change direction is imperative. Strength is an important part, however, Many strength programs focus on sagittal plane movements only, i.e. squats and deadlifts, and fail to incorporate rotational, multidirectional training exercises during training. These types of programs may actually hamper ACL injury prevention efforts.
The Parisi program is designed to help reduce the risk of injuries in youth athletes because we focus on ALL the necessary components required, not just strength. It is essential that any program focus on building foundational biomechanics and movement patterns, ingraining them in the athlete so they become second nature, and strengthening the muscles through resistance training. This is what makes our program stand out, and as successful as it is in developing athletes. It teaches them, and through repetition and cueing, builds up the necessary movement patterns along with strengthening the muscles involved, in our athletes to prevent knee valgus occuring when they are on the field of play, and ultimately a longer and healthier career.