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Friday, May 15, 2009

These Exercise Could Save You A Knee Injury

Illustration: Leif ParsonsTalk about a gender gap: Simply being female means we are up to eight times more likely to suffer a severe knee injury than we would be if we had a Y chromosome. Researchers believe a woman's wider hips place the thighbone at a more extreme angle where it meets the knee, putting strain on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL); female hormones that keep connective tissue pliable may also weaken the knee. Now it looks as if an exercise regimen developed by the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation and tested by the CDC's Injury Center may offer women real protection. The regimen is called PEP (prevent injury and enhance performance). It targets the hip and thigh muscles as well as those in the abdomen and lower back and takes just 15 to 20 minutes, three times a week. A study of 1,435 women soccer players—published last year in the American Journal of Sports Medicine—found that those who followed the exercise plan had 41 percent fewer ACL injuries than players who didn't. Here are six essential moves from PEP to get you started.

Put PEP in Your Knees

Warm up your muscles by jogging (or briskly walking) forward and backward, and cross-stepping side to side for about five minutes.

1. Vertical Jump
Improves lower-body strength and stability. Stand with hands at your sides. Slightly bend the knees and jump straight up. Land softly on the balls of your feet with a slight bend in your knees. Repeat 20 times.

2. Crunch
Strengthens abdominal muscles. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Link your hands loosely behind your head with your elbows wide. Breathe in and slowly contract your abdominal muscles as you exhale, lifting your head and shoulders off the floor; then lower back to the floor. Repeat 30 times. Next, drop your knees to the right side and do 30 more. Repeat on the left side.

3. Walking Lunge
Strengthens the quadriceps and improves balance and stability. Take a full stride forward with your right leg. Drop the back knee down, keeping your torso upright and your front knee over your ankle (you should be able to see your toes). Push off with your left foot and lunge forward with your left leg, repeating the move. Use your quads and outer hip muscles to keep the forward knee from wobbling from side to side. Do three sets of ten repetitions (five per leg), with a one-minute rest between sets.

4. Hamstring Lean
Strengthens hamstrings. Kneel on the floor with your back straight, hands at your sides. Anchor your feet under a couch or other heavy piece of furniture (or have a partner hold them firmly). Keeping your thighs, hips, and back aligned, lean forward as far as possible without bending at the waist. Return to start. Do three sets of ten repetitions, with a one-minute rest between sets.

5. Knee to Chest
Stretches lower-back muscles. Lie on your back, legs flat on the floor. Bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest. Hug it firmly with both arms. You should feel a stretch along your lower back and into your buttocks. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Now bring both knees to your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the entire sequence once.

6. Bridge with Leg Lift
Strengthens hip flexors, abductors, and buttocks. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides. Raise your buttocks off the floor until your thighs and back form one straight line, and squeeze. Lift your right foot a few inches off the floor—without letting your hips dip. Lower your right foot and repeat with the left leg. Repeat 30 times per leg.The rest are at pepprogram. htm

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