Knee Valgus and adolescent netballers
Posted on August 17th, 2019
After working with adolescent netballers, I have found that knee valgus is a common under acknowledged and unrealised misalignment where their knees bend inwards when they jump, land or; in extreme cases walk and run.
Some cases of knee valgus can be discovered from knee pain, however a lot of cases go unnoticed. It is found to be more prominent in young children, female athletes and athletes that are having or have had growth spurts. Knee valgus often the result of tight, overactive adductors (the muscles that run down the inner thigh and groin area), and weak abductors (the muscles that run down the outside of the leg which act to pull the leg away from the midline of the body). Some natural factors that can contribute to knee valgus are wider hips and sudden or substantial growth spurts. Wider hips can be prone to rotating internally, which can result in the knees caving inwards, which contributes to higher valgus cases in females. During sudden or substantial growth spurts the femur may grow faster then the muscles, resulting in tightness and the athlete effectively needing to partially relearn how to move.
The adductors role is to pull the leg in towards the midline of the body. If the adductors are too tight, and the abductors too weak, balance within the lower half of the body is lost and the knees tend to buckle. Knee valgus can lead to flat feet, pain in the knees, and higher risk of injuries like ACL and MCL tears.
So how do we fix knee valgus?
Loosening the adductors by stretching and/or rolling and strengthening the abductors helps to restore some balance in the lower body. These are three examples of some exercises that we use to help strengthen the abductors.
Crab walks, progress to banded crab walks
Back bridges, progress to single leg back bridges
Clams progress to banded clams
Another major component of correcting knee valgus in athletes like netballers is reteaching their muscles how to jump and land with the correct form.