The knee, and more specifically, the ACL, is one part of the body highly susceptible to injury, especially in young women.  Female athletes commonly tear their ACLs in sports such as basketball and soccer. There is an abundance of research suggesting various factors predispose athletes, specifically females, to ACL injuries. Hip strength is one factor highlighted throughout research as a possible contributor to these injuries.

The hip plays a major role in controlling knee stability.  The hip and knee joints work to support each other during daily and sporting activities, and some studies suggest knee injuries are associated with hip muscle weakness. In addition, muscle fatigue in the core and glutes can negatively impact body mechanics and predispose athletes to injury. How do poor strength and fatigue contribute to ACL injuries?  Hip and knee internal rotation increases with weakness and fatigue, which then causes a valgus force in the knees, or the knees diving in toward each other (see photo).

Knees excessively diving in can be related to diminished hip muscle strength, especially in the glutes, and is one of the most common factors associated with ACL tears. Additionally inadequate core and hip strength and endurance often cause athletes to use incorrect form and excessive movement in certain areas of the body, increasing the risk of injury.

So when it comes to reducing the risk of ACL injury, what can be done?  Strengthening the core, hips and glutes! For example, the glute max muscles helps provide 3 dimensional stability of the hip. The glute med muscles help to stabilize the femur and pelvis with side to side motions as needed during dynamic cutting. By strengthening and engaging hip muscles during activity, athletes can reduce the amount of knee diving and inherently reduce the risk of ACL injury.

In week 2 of our 3DPT’s Guide to ACL Prevention with REAL Jersey Football Club, the players learned these 3 key exercises that help to strengthen the hip and glutes –  Clamshells, single leg bridges and lateral band walks,.

Here are examples of each.  Try 2 sets of 10 reps to start working those glute muscles!

Articles:

1) ACL Injury Prevention: What Does Research Tell Us?
Trent Nessler  et 2017
2) The Influence of Abnormal  Hip Mechanics on Knee Injury: A Biomechanical Perspective
Christopher M Powers, 2010
3) The female ACL: Why is it more prone to injury?
Journal of Orthopaedics 2016
4) Biomechanical Measures of Neuromuscular Control and Valgus Loading of the Knee Predict Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Risk in Female Athletes
Timothy E. Hewet et al 2005