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Before your event, how much love and kindness are you giving your knees? The more you prep, the more you minimize your chances of getting hurt, says knee care specialist Dr. RJ Ritchie MS, PAC, PhD (orthopedic surgery and sports medicine).
Ritchie notices that this simple advice is consistently overlooked by weekend warriors who are more about the event than the prep, and ultimately don’t train right. In many cases, they’ll race themselves right into a bad spot, because the knees are not near the top of their injury prevention checklist
The knee injuries seen from OCR events range anywhere from simple strains of the medial collateral ligament (MCL), or, when dancing through the tires, a more dramatic and serious knee twist or sprain. Another biggie: tendon tears, meniscal tears, and dislocating the patella (also known as the kneecap). Some of these can be healed with rest, ice and heat, but sometimes surgery is needed.
Prepping by jogging ten miles on a treadmill? Your cardiovascular results will be top notch, but your knees, which also need to be working at top capacity, will not. Here are some rules of thumb for loving your knees when prepping for Mudder:
Always warm up and stretch properly
Ritchie admits that there are always going to be knee injuries that you may not be able to prevent. However, you’re also begging for a world of hurt if, before the event, you don’t warm up or stretch first. There are actually specific knee exercises and ACL preventative strengthening protocols that many athletes do. If you have a history of knee problems, or if you are bow-legged (the technical term: genu varum), you should realize that you are at an increased risk for knee injury. The time it takes to strengthen the knee and get it into excellent shape? Think 2-3 times a weeks for 5-10 minutes each. Can do? Well worth the effort if you ask us.
Be a pogo stick
Try single leg hops, and isolation exercises that really work the tendons and ligaments that support your knee. You don’t have to do big, sweeping exercises, like putting on 500-pound weights and squatting them, but it’s the small, careful precautions that puts you ahead of the race.
Strengthen your hamstrings and quads
Your ultimate goal: balance in your lower body. If your quads are way stronger than your hamstrings, that puts you at risk for injury because you are not balanced from a front-to-back standpoint. The same with the hips: if they’re out of alignment, your risk for knee injuries increases.
Wear footwear that fits
Your footwear should give you the kind of proper fitting that keeps you in normal alignment, which will also prevent the alignment of your knee from being at risk. The technical name for this: your Q angle, which is the angle from quad to knee/knee to ankle.
Everybody is different
All of us have different strengths and weaknesses. However, stretching, flexing and warming up properly is non-negotiable and covers everyone. After your workout, don’t forget to cool down too. It’s impossible to prevent every single injury, but what is possible: the time you put into specifically strengthening the muscles that surround and support the knee.