While speaking yesterday with Northeastern University’s basketball strength coach and director of sports medicine, Art Horne, the issue of knees naturally came up. The reason I say that it naturally came up is because being that he works with a lot of basketball players and I work with a lot of basketball players, we both encounter knee pain a lot. He made the very interesting point that basketball is really one of the only sports that you can play by yourself. So these players are basically playing year-round. This is something that I have written about before and I am not really that fond of.
Many basketball players and even non-basketball players will come to the gym complaining of anterior knee pain. Yes, some of this can be attributed to overuse injury but many times we need to look at the surrounding joints. In this case, that means the ankles and hips. In case you haven’t noticed, the basketball shoes that athletes are wearing now are more like space boots. Add to that the ankle braces or taping of the ankles and you have effectively taken away all mobility from the ankle. For some reason, many players and coaches think this is a good thing. What they don’t realize is that the ankle, like the hip, is a mobile joint. If you take away the mobility from the ankle, it must go somewhere and that somewhere is up to the next joint, the knee. The only problem with the knee becoming more mobile is that it is supposed to be a stable joint. A mobile knee equals an injury. There have been many cases of NBA players going in to have mirco-fracture surgery and the surgery being unsuccessful. All they are essentially doing is treating a symptom rather than the cause, like trying to get a fever down when you have an infection. As long as players are wearing space boots, knee injury will linger.
The joint above the knees is the hip, and its one of the most complex in the entire body. I don’t think I have encountered but one person in my gym that has enough mobility in the hips. Once again, if you take away mobility in the hips, that mobility must go somewhere and it travels south down to the “dumb joint”, which is the knee. There are many ways to attack this problem, including:
- Stretching the hip rotators and hip flexors.
- Utilizing soft tissue things like foam rolling.
- Performing mobility exercises such as “fire-hydrants”.
- Teaching exercises such as the squat and deadlift with complete range of motion and the proper “hip-hinge”.
Funny, I just wrote about the hip hinge last week. It is to me one of the most essential movements in the entire gym. Do yourself a favor, educate your knees and take them from the bottom of the class all the way up to Harvard, because they’ve had enough of being the “dumb joint”.