“5 Words That Saved Our Knees”

Sometimes you say something in a way that truly resonates with someone.  When you see the “lightbulb” go on, you know you’ve connected and made a difference.  Moments like this are why I love helping people in rehab and performance.

Read this story from a Mom who embraced the opportunity for an early consultation, before an injury brought them in…

5 words that changed our lives and, I believe, protected my daughter from major knee issues in sports.


My daughter was born an athlete…soccer is her true passion and she plays from the heart.


Being her chauffeur over the years, I’ve heard the ins and outs of it all.  The hardest part has been watching her teammates, her close friends, get hurt on the field…and the impact that it has on them socially, emotionally, and physically.  I can’t help but worry in the back of my mind that “what if” that happened to my daughter…and what if it was us driving to practices and games, only to sit on the sidelines…it could be us racing over to physical therapy appointments and fitting in rehab exercises between school assignments.  What if it was US having those difficult conversations…talking about choosing another sport…


When the opportunity for learning some injury prevention exercises came up, I jumped on it.  I didn’t know that 70% of the major knee ligament injuries were preventable!  When I found that out, I knew my daughter had to be a part of it.  I got her into a program and even had a consultation with the Physical Therapist.  The appointment blew me away.  The PT looked at my daughter’s posture and movement, and narrowed right in on some of the minor issues that she has dealt with in the past.  One phrase, in particular, turned on a lightbulb in my mind that never went off…


“Stay in the ‘wobble’ zone,” she said.


My daughter stands with her knees hyperextended…and so do I.  She also has flat, over-pronated feet…and so do I.  I had ACL reconstruction surgery when I was 23 years old.  And I’ll do anything to save her from going through that.


One of the most valuable pieces of advice that my daughter received that day was how to stand with better posture through her legs.  My daughter and I learned how to stand without hyperextending our knees, and how to keep our feet in a “neutral” position, rather than over-pronated or flat-footed. 


If we stand in a relaxed way, there’s a tendency to lock the knees all the way back into hyperextension…but to stand in this new “correct” way, we have to think more consciously.  We have to be aware of the right position and know how to get our bodies to stay there. 


“Stay in the wobble zone,” she told us…and everything clicked for me.  I realized that my knees want to be hyperextended too far or bent too far; they don’t want to stay straight because it feels wobbly, or even a little weird.  We learned that the body wants to go to the extreme end of motion so it can rest on passive ligaments, rather than use muscles to stay in a better position.  It’s actually harder to stay in neutral because it requires more strength.  So staying in the “wobble” zone (not too straight and not too bent) was our challenge.


Nevertheless, as we did the exercises and focused on the position, staying in the “wobble” zone, it got easier and easier.  I didn’t realize how much strength we could gain with simple exercises and “the right posture.”

My daughter struggled with the mechanics for a while; but eventually she got it.  Now, she has some of the best body mechanics and awareness that I’ve ever seen.  She has avoided injuries, never has had knee pain, and has been able to play competitive sports as long as her heart desires!


I think back to that first intervention.  Before that consultation, nobody had ever talked to my daughter about posture or how to squat or jump-and-land the right way.  It forever changed the way she thought about movement and drills.  As she and her teammates went through growth spurts, she was able to manage the awkward transitions by focusing on posture and good movement patterns. 


I’m forever thankful for her first Physical Therapist, who taught us something so valuable at just the right time in my daughter’s life!


My advice to parents with children who are passionate about a sport that has a high risk of knee injuries:  talk to a Physical Therapist about injury prevention and sign them up for program so they can learn the foundations of movement and posture.  The education and training that we had went a long way; and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


The power of that “first intervention” should never be underestimated.  Often, I am the first professional to introduce foundational concepts of posture and body mechanics to people.  The concepts I teach them are not only helpful NOW, but extremely valuable in the long-run.  Understanding these foundational concepts early can be the difference between having a long, active, painfree lifestyle or dealing with constant injuries and setbacks year after year.

I hope you find this story as inspirational as I do.

If you have any questions about injury prevention exercises, or if you have wondered what you can do to help your child prevent injuries, send me a message and tell me your story (DrLeslie@eliteconceptspt.com)  You can also join our Faceboook group, Injury Prevention for Active Families.

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