Knee injuries, and how you are going to prevent it
Shuttle running, knee injuries, and how you are going to prevent it.
Shuttle running, (aka court sprints, beep test, suicide runs) is a simple and easy exercise with loads of benefits! This includes building your speed and agility, increase your conditioning fitness, as well as strengthening up your muscle structures around your lower extremities. It is clear high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is useful, and shuttle running is a great addition to your training routine. Burn calories faster, improve anaerobic fitness and is as effective as moderate-intensity continuous exercise in losing body fat.
It has also been suggested for a while that shuttle running is great for injury prevention in all ages from kids to adults.
As a fast-paced training drill involving a change of direction, pivots and acceleration/deceleration, injuries can occur during the drill itself. Injuries from shuttle runs are commonly seen in the knee, however, they can also include lower back strains and rolled ankles. Therefore by addressing the prevention techniques for the knee, we should also be able to eliminate factors that cause injury elsewhere. So we are going to focus this blog on the knee.
To explain further, we have to explain the structures of our knee.
Our knee joint is a hinge joint, which essentially means it only has one plane of movement, front and back.
To prevent side to side movements, you have structures such as ligaments and meniscus to absorb and correct the forces going through the knee to ensure it moves front and back. An over-exaggeration of pivoting or lateral forces may result in sprains or tears to those structures.
A study has found, that the faster the sprint, the higher the pivoting force, leading to a higher risk of injury.¹
It also shows that the harder the surface, the higher chance of getting hurt too!²
Sounds all grim and gloomy when it comes to injury for shuttle runs, so why the heck should we do it?
If we do it during a drill environment, our body starts to learn how to do that movement most efficiently. We can start to build the body’s strength and resistance during these movements, therefore, should we get caught up in the same movement when we are doing reactive pivots or superhero moves in combat training or during the fight, our body will be ready to handle that situation without snapping.
So let's start by easing your way into the exercise.
Firstly, on a pivot, injuries most commonly occurs when the knee bend is minimal. The less the bend, the higher the risk.
Therefore, make sure your knee is more bent during the turning phase of the exercise.
Regular practice and warming up is key to providing your protection!
Follow these exercises as a warm up procedure to look after your knee better.
Running warm up drills – there is no better way to warm up for running but running itself. Start slow, concentrate your focus on the range of movement of your ankles, to your knees, to your hips, to your lower back, and then to your shoulders. Use the range you would be using during a sprint. This can include bringing your knees high, kicking your ankles backwards, and hops alternating elbow to knees.
Throw in side to side straddles as well as the carioca drill. Get used to the pivoting motion.
Create a combination of the following for up to 5 minutes, ensuring none of your joints remain stiff prior to doing the shuttle running drills.
Squats – Stand with your feet slightly past shoulder width. Clasp your hands in front of your chest, and slowly lower your bottom as though you are going to sit down on a chair. Get as low as you can comfortably go, and stand back up. You should feel both your quads and your glutes working. If it is just your quads, aim to bring your bottom backwards more. Avoid your knees coming forward past your toes.
Repeat 15-20 times.
Side to Side Crab Walks – go down into the bottom squat position with your hands clasp in front of you. Take a big step to your left with your left leg, and follow through with a step with your right leg to match. Now, go to the opposite direction with a big step to your right with your right leg, and follow it with the left.
Add in a pivot – After one step left and following through, take the right leg and bring it in front past your left leg so that you have now turned 180 degrees around and facing the opposite direction. Now take your right leg and take a step to the right, and follow through with the left.
Repeat 10-15 times.
The 180 jump – Start with your feet slightly past shoulder width. Squat down, then explode up with a big jump, with a twist of your body so that you are spinning a full 180 degree circle. Land with your knees bent and into that squat position. Repeat the jump the opposite direction.
Repeat both directions five times.
Should any of the following drills cause discomfort or instability, consult your local therapist or rehab trainer.
Next thing to consider: floor surface to footwear. The harder the surface, the softer the footwear. Therefore, if running on hard ground or concrete, padded running shoes would be a solid choice. While with soft MMA mats, my choice would be bare feet. Bare feet on hard concrete or running shoes on gym mat floors (!!) should probably be avoided, not just that you would be murdered by your trainer for shoes on mats, but the chances of injury is steeper!²
So, get moving! Practice shuttle runs, warm up safely, and add them to your routine as part of your fight training!
Thanks @itskiwirob for filming and editing the video!
1 Lu et al. (2009). Speed Effect on Lower Extremity Biomechanics during Shuttle Run. World Congress on Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, September 7 – 12, 2009, Munich, Germany pp 1808-1810
2 Konar et al. (2013). Shuttle run performance induced injury rates of school boys on different sport surfaces. European Journal of Biophysics; 1(4): 33-36