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Know Your Knees

May 23, 2016 04:19 PM


As is the case for any athlete, taking care of the body is one of the most important things for a competitive tennis player. This means having all muscles, tendons and ligaments loose and strong before taking the court to play. The knee is considered the most important body part for the mobile athlete and injured knees have far and away derailed more collegiate and professional careers than any other injury.

While tennis players may struggle with tendonitis in the knee (jumper’s knee) or meniscal tears, the injury that has become an epidemic to all athletes is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). There has been a huge increase in the number of ACL reconstruction procedures in recent years, with more than 200,000 being performed in 2014 alone.

The ACL is one of the two cruciate, or “crossing,” ligaments in the center of the knee, and while small in length, roughly the size of the pinky finger, it plays an instrumental role in the process of stabilizing the knee. The ACL runs through the center of the knee connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin (tibia). When the ligament becomes torn it will cause the shin bone to slide forward in relation to the thigh bone. This abnormal motion can cause further injury to the meniscus and cartilage of the knee. Acute ACL tears typically are accompanied by a loud or audible pop followed by severe pain and swelling, which will immediately sideline any athlete.

All tennis players are aware that their success is tied to their ability to change direction quickly and move their body weight on a dime. Unfortunately, this is the exact action that results in so many ACL injuries. Fifty to seventy percent of ACL tears are caused by non-contact injuries of twisting or suddenly stopping. Some athletes are at a higher risk than others for these tears. In fact, female athletes have a higher risk for an ACL injury, and studies have shown females to be four to eight times more likely to sustain this injury as compared to male athletes playing the same sport. What's more, young athletes who have anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair are more likely to have degenerative arthritis later in life, according to a growing body of research. And that often means knee replacement surgery. 

Todd Miner, MD, adult reconstructive specialist at Porter Adventist Hospital, offers several preventive strategies:

1. Keep muscles limber and balanced with strength training and stretching. “Often young athletes will do squats and leg presses to strengthen quads and gluteal muscles, but the most critical protection for ACL injuries is strong hamstrings,” he says, recommending leg curls and cycling.

2. Try a “jump training” program to help learn correct landing techniques, such as landing with the knees slightly bent.

3. Don’t rush back after injury. “Work with an athletic trainer or physical therapist to make sure muscles and hamstrings have been rehabilitated after injury.”


Porter Center for Joint Replacement is a proud partner of USTA Colorado. 
To learn about knee and hip injury or to meet their specialists, visit online



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