Here are a few key points that we can do to reduce knee problems in gymnasts:
1. Improve ankle range of motion.
Typically, gymnasts present a lack of ankle dorsiflexion, as most of their sport specific skills happen in plantar flexion.
The lack of ankle dorsiflexion and internal rotation on the ankle joint will be compensated by the knee, resulting in pain and sometimes serious injuries.
A simple set of exercises with this purpose will benefit you greatly.
2. Increase glute medius activation.
The glute medius primarily does hip abduction, and it is vital in lateral movements and single leg stability.
A weak glute medius means trouble for your knees.
One way to solve this adding exercises like banded monster walks and hip airplanes during warmups.
3. Improve motor control.
Every gymnast should be able to perform basic movements like squats, deadlifts and jumps without compensating with lumbar lordosis or valgus at the knee.
If they can’t do the most basic movements right, don’t expect them to stay injury free when practicing complicated moves like AGG skills.
4. Improve hip mobility.
Lack of range of motion at the hips is a threat both for the knees and for the lumbar spine.
Stretch the hip flexors, hip extensors, hip internal rotators and hip external rotators.
Every day. Every session. All the time.
5. Strength train.
Mobility without stability is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t be that gymnast that is afraid of strength training because you think it’s dangerous or because it’s going to make you muscular: Not doing strength training is dangerous.
6. Do more posterior chain work.
Hip thrusts, deadlifts, single leg deadlifts are your best friend.
Quad dominant gymnasts will have a predisposition for knee tendonitis and other related problems.
Work on the muscles that you don’t see in the mirror!
7. Before going to the physio, think twice about the way you are training.
The physio can’t correct poor training practice.
Physical therapy is an excellent complement to attenuate symptoms but never to solve the root of training-related problems.
8. Go to the doctor.
If you train correctly and knee pain doesn’t improve, find a good sports doctor.
Coaches and physical therapists can’t scan your knee to see if the joint structures are damaged.
The doctor is always the first professional you should visit.
9. Use common sense.
If an exercise hurts, don’t do it: Don’t ignore bad pain.
More often than not it’s your own body warning you that something is not right.
10. Lose fat and keep it off.
Notice I said fat, not muscle.
Stay in shape, otherwise, your joints will have to absorb very high forces in every landing, increasing injury risk.