Several of my coaches were on vacation this week, so I had to be more hands on with the training. It was good to see how our athletes were progressing and let them know I was still alive better than ever.

One thing did catch my eye and I wanted to discuss it with you today. There was one movement most coaches and orthopedics do NOT like to see that a few of our athletes were doing this week.

The common denominator for all these athletes was that they were all soccer players. Once I explain what this movement is, you will understand why they all had this particular issue.

What I was noticing was that when these athletes did a standing broad jump, their knees would collapse in and in some cases touch as they were jumping forward.  

The athletes would start their downward phase flexing at the hips, knees, and ankles. As they would then rapidly extend everything to jump, the upper thighs would collapse in and possibly collapse in upon landing as well.

This is not good.

When an individual jumps we like to see perfect alignment of the limbs all the way through the jumping process. Nothing flaring out or in. If this is happening on jumps, just think how it happens on something of similar explosion like running or cutting.  

This is when traumatic knee injuries occur. There is a weakness so the muscles can’t stabilize the knee properly for these explosive movements. Then the ACL blows.

So where is the weakness?

Good question! In this particular case, it could be the glutes not firing right, but most likely the leg abductors (outer thighs) are weak. For soccer players, this happens because they are predominately kicking the soccer boy with the inner thigh. It becomes so much stronger thus developing a muscle imbalance.

To strengthen this muscle, there are a few good exercises that you could do, but here are two simple ones:

  • You could lie on your side and do a side leg raise. Just raise your leg nice and controlled straight up and then lower appropriately. If it gets easy, attach some resistance to your ankle such as ankle weights.

  • Or you could stand up and attach a resistance band to your foot. Anchor the band down somehow and do some standing leg raises. Pull the band away from your body.

Both of these should hit your leg abductors sufficiently enough to start strengthening those muscles and correcting the problem. I would try to do these exercises 3 to 4 times a week with reps of 10-15 for 3 sets.

Trust me. If you do not correct this problem now, you will be rolling the dice with your athlete down the road as to whether or not they will suffer a significant knee injury. It will take 10 minutes of time and be well worth it down the road.

In conclusion, take your soccer player outside and stand in front of him/her. Have the athlete jump toward you for one standing broad jump. If the knees look like they are caving in on the takeoff or landing, start doing these exercises. Your welcome!

Photo courtesy of MSC U13 Green on Flickr: