Following serious injury to the knee, such as MCL or ACL rupture, the athlete will inevitably suffer muscle atrophy to the muscles surrounding the concerned knee. It is therefore vital throughout an athlete’s rehab program to work extensively on the surrounding muscles, in order to return to activity in the best possible condition, and prevent further injury.
Whilst not neglecting the upper body, the main muscles an athlete should look to work on throughout their rehab program include:
Building up the strength in all of these muscles is critical, as focusing on one more than the others can in fact result in more damage. For example, placing too much emphasis on trying to strengthen the quadriceps, and not enough on strengthening the hamstrings can result in a number of postural problems through muscle imbalances. In the case of ACL rehab strengthening the hamstrings should in fact be a priority, as strength in these muscles will prevent further injury down the line.
Dependant on the severity of injury, early stage rehab should generally consist of closed chain exercises, where the knee or foot is in a fixed position, progressing all the way through to open chain exercises, where the knee or ankle are free to move. However, higher-end rehab of the muscles around the knee joint should only be a component looked at once muscular stability and endurance has been achieved in order to cope with the demands of the heavier loads.
Jamie Grange BSc (hons) GSR MSc CPT.