When I played with the Vancouver Whitecaps, during my 2nd year I tore cartilage in my knee the start of the season. This led to a surgery (scope). With rehab came learning the ways to get the knee strong and ready to play again. My physio (shout out to Nico!) in Vancouver would have me doing low impact exercises for knee strengthening to get me game fit. The good news is with great doctors and physios I was back to playing in a game 12 days later!
Treatment depends on your injury
You may be dealing with a sprain, tendonitis or coming back from surgery…
Whatever the case, if it’s more serious start off with light knee strengthening exercises. Each day you’ll get stronger, so ease into more intense rehab as you feel better.
Below you can learn different ways to come back from injury and treat it the best you can.
Here’s a light knee strengthening exercise to start with.
What to do post surgery and recovery
My first game back with Vancouver vs Montreal 12 days after a knee scope, the plan was to be a substitute so I could come back slow my first game.
The week leading up to the game several teammates go hurt so the coach asked me if I could start…
We traveled from West to East Coast to play 3 games and then come back home for a 4th game.
With a knock to my knee during the 2nd game and then playing my 3rd game in 6 days, my knee was very swollen which then took longer to fully heal [4 months]. If I would have come back that week slower, I would have felt better within that first month.
Coming Back from an Injury
So as you come back from injury make sure you’re not only strong enough to play but that you don’t come back doing too much in that short period.
In regards to your fitness, REST is one of the most vital pieces of the puzzle.
Same thing in college when I had a different surgery [hip] during the off-season before my Junior year. I had surgery in the Spring and rehabbed my body well, with good Summer workouts on my own.
Then in Pre-Season did too much the first week and probably should have done more bike or running in the Summer to prepare. It’s one thing to work out on your own doing rehab or just running on your own, but when you get back to team practice your body goes through much more.
You need to be careful coming back during a pre-season or several games in 1 week.
3 Knee strengthening exercises using a ‘yoga ball’
NOTE: Before doing these exercises you should warm up with a jog or on a bike and then get a stretch.
I’m not a fan of yoga itself, and this is not that, but this exercise/yoga ball is great for these 3 exercises.
- Standing with the wall to your side, you put the ball at your hip. With the inside foot closest to the wall being bent with the far leg away from the wall will be the only foot on the ground. Start with your knee straight and then bend down slow just 2-4 inches. You are not going down very far because you don’t want to put pressure on the knee. Keep you Core Flexed Tight.
- Standing back to wall with the ball between you and the wall. You will have one foot on the ground while performing the exercise on the video I provided on this page. Notice while bending my knee that is on the ground I use my arm to make a running motion.
- Hamstring – Lying on your back, bring your feet on top of the ball. Bring the ball in towards you by bending your knees. Then straighten your legs, making the ball go away from you. Remember, keep your Core Flexed Tight.
Each exercise should be done keeping the core tight – I cannot stress this enough.
Bonus #1: Wall sits to strengthen your quad and knee
One of the best knee strengthening exercises you can do.
Start with 1 minute and try to build up to 3-5 minutes.
Pro athletes who do 5 minutes straight are less susceptible to knee injuries. Youth athletes don’t train as much, so 3 minutes would be good.
Build up to 3 or 5 minutes by doing 60/90 seconds in the morning, afternoon and at night. After a few weeks of doing this every other day you’ll be going 3-5 minutes straight.
Bonus #2: Knee strengthening using a mini trampoline
Use a trampoline only if your knee feels strong.
If your having pain, try doing lighter exercise like balancing on one leg for 10 seconds [3 sets].
Another good light knee strengthening exercise is 1 leg bends – like this video [only bend a few inches] and do 10 of these each leg [3 sets].
- Start at the front of trampoline.
- Your 1st jump is backwards and your last is forward.
- Do 4 jumps and on the last one get lower by bending your knee and pause for 2 seconds with arms out wide for balance.
- You’ll do these 4 jumps, 4 times then switch legs.
- Do 3 sets each leg. 16 jumps each set = 48 total jumps each leg.
- Keep your core/stomach tight and contracted the whole time.
3 things to read before using a trampoline:
- Be careful that you don’t roll/twist your ankle when landing. Tie your shoes tight to help.
- Notice the legs of the trampoline and make sure one trampoline leg is in front and behind where you’re facing. This way it supports you and doesn’t tip the trampoline when you land and jump.
- Don’t do this if you’re coming off injury or feeling pain.
If you’re having pain on the very top of the knee cap, Read this blog post: Secrets tips for patellar tendonitis
Knowing when you’re ready to play
You’ll be back on the field and competing 100% soon!
First understand there are 3 different playing situations…
- Training in a skills type setting [unopposed]
- Scrimmage or full game like situations
- Game / match
Before playing in a game, make sure you gradually increase from unopposed sessions to opposed. Before you play in a match that you were able to get through a skills session and able to sprint and jump in training without pain.
*DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician, physical therapist, etc. However, I am a former professional athlete who has been through the training, surgeries, rehabilitation, etc. Always consult a doctor for injuries.