Posts Tagged ‘knee injuries’

Did Wimbledon’s Courts Wreck Players’ Knees?

The slippery grass courts at Wimbledon led to injuries and the withdrawal of 7 top tennis players on Day 3 from the prestigious tournament last Wednesday.

Four players injured their knees – Victoria Azarenka, John Isner, Marin Cilic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Prominent players, such as Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki, who both lost their matches, criticized the condition of the courts.

One of Maria Sharapova's spills at Wimbledon.

One of Maria Sharapova’s spills at Wimbledon.

But it’s more likely that the rigors of the game, rather than the courts, were to blame.

No matter what the surface, knee injuries are quite common in tennis players because of the sharp side-to-side movements required.

Azarenka hurt her right knee on Monday when she slipped on Court One.

Tsonga, Isner, and Cilic mostly blamed pre-existing physical problems or one-off injuries that were not caused specifically by slipping on the grass.

Most of us never get a chance to play tennis on grass courts and so will never know how slick the courts can be.

I once played on a grass court on vacation in Hawaii, and didn’t find it particularly slippery, although the skidding ball made me bend me knees more than usual.

Knee Cartilage Tears

One of the most prevalent knee injuries among players in their 40s and 50s is a knee cartilage tear, particularly among those who play intensely.

The basic problem is that the aging knee cartilage loses some of its water content and elasticity and, consequently, some internal strength.

These changes make tears more likely.

Tears occur when you land, anchor your foot, and then attempt an inward or outward pivoting motion.

Most players experience some pain and may feel tearing within the knee, although some feel no tearing and have relatively little, if any pain.

A swollen knee on the day following a painful episode is a good indication that you have damaged your knee.

Medial cartilage tears, on the inside of the knee, are more common than lateral cartilage tears, on the outside of the knee.

Many tennis players simply live with a cartilage tear that does not bother them too much.

Even a highly active player, who is much more likely to have symptoms, may only feel intermittent pain.

If you have a cartilage tear and it remains painful even after conservative treatment with anti-inflammatory agents, decreased activity, and quadriceps-strengthening exercises, then arthroscopic surgery can remove the torn portion of cartilage.

Then you should rehabilitate your leg muscles to help regain full range of motion in the knee.

Like most tennis players, if you have torn cartilage you can likely return to play at the same level, even if you need surgery more than once for tearing knee cartilage.

Warm-up Exercises Reduce Sports Injuries in Teenage Athletes

Special neuromuscular warm-up exercises done before soccer and basketball practices can help teenage female athletes reduce their number of leg injuries.

Almost 1 million teenage girls play high school soccer and basketball each year.

But an estimated 1 out of 3 sustains a soccer- or basketball-related sports injury.

Knee injuries are the most common cause of permanent disability in female high school basketball players, accounting for up to 91% of season-ending injuries and 94% of injuries requiring surgery, according to researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago.

They invited 258 coaches from Chicago Public Schools to participate in a study to see whether a specialized warm-up program could reduce lower extremity injuries.

Overall, 90 coaches and 1,492 athletes, predominantly from low-income, urban populations, participated in the study, which was reported in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Coaches in the intervention group attended a 2-hour training session 2 weeks prior to the start of the 2006-2007 season.

After learning how to implement a 20-minute neuromuscular warm-up before team practices and a shorter pregame version, the coaches in the intervention group used the prescribed warm-up before an average of 80% of practices.

The control coaches stuck to their standard warm-up protocol, including no warm-up exercises and having athletes jog or warm up on their own.

The results show that athletes in the intervention group had about half as many lower extremity injuries (50) as those in the control group (96).

And those in the neuromuscular warm-up group had a 34% decrease in non-contact ankle sprains as compared to the control group.

The neuromuscular training program combined progressive strengthening with plyometric, balance, and agility exercises.

Coaches instructed the female athletes on how to land softly, without excessive side-to-side movement and with flexed hips and knees.

One outstanding question is whether coaches will continue to implement this warm-up consistently for several seasons, or whether retraining will be needed.

I’ve got a personal interest since my 14-year-old daughter Sarah just finished her first season as a starter on the varsity soccer team, and began basketball practice yesterday.

I plan to send the school’s athletic director the results of this study and a PDF of a similar type of training program that has been shown to enhance performance and prevent injuries.