My Tuesday night martial arts students worked hard last night on sweeps, falls, tumbling, and quick recovery to their feet. Each week they also learn a new jump rope technique. They have been getting good at fast skipping, crossing the rope in multiple spins to the front, sides, and overhead, and varied footwork during jumps.
When landing from jumps, it is important not to let your knees knock inward under your body weight (photo at left). It is important for knee health not only when jumping, but descending the stairs, bending for all daily needs, and even getting in and out of your chair.
Letting your weight fall to the inside of your knee joint, instead of holding your weight evenly on your knees using your own leg muscles, adds load and wear to the cartilage on the inner surface of the knee bones, stresses the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the middle, overstretches the ligament on the inner side of the knee, and can damage a meniscus. A menscus is one of two small cushions in each knee between the knee bones. Letting knees sway inward more commonly damages the medial meniscus (the inner one) although either or both can be stretched or twisted by bad knee positioning. Letting your knees sway inward is not a "condition," and not unavoidable or something you are born to have. It is a posture you can control using your own muscles to hold your legs from swaying inward.
A while back I took a box-aerobics class because I had a coupon for a free week at a local club. The woman in front of me was stomping up and down as she swatted the air. Her knees bumped together every time her feet landed. Her feet were at least ten inches apart yet her knees bashed together, over and over, bending inward at the knee joint. It was alarming.
Don't let your knees (or ankles) sway inward under your weight. Use your muscles to hold knees in position, over your feet:
- When landing, land lightly - softly. Don't pound. The only noise should be the whirring of the jump rope, not your feet slamming the ground, transmitting shock to your knees and hips, and up your spine.
- Bend your knees lightly when you land. Don't land straight-legged.
- When you bend your knees for landing, don't let them sway inward.
- Keep kneecaps facing the same direction as toes, not twisting inward.
- Land softly, on the ball of the foot first. Quickly bring heels down while bending knees to absorb impact.
Remember healthy knee positioning during all activities. Look at your own knees and other people's knees when they take the stairs, and when bending to reach or retrieve things for healthy bending at home and work. Notice knees when you get out of your chair and sit back down. Don't let knees sway inward. Hold them in line using your thigh muscles, not letting them angle sharply inward.
It is easy to control leg positioning for healthy knee joints while you stand, bend, take stairs, exercise, and jump so that your daily life and exercise is healthy.
- More on keeping knees healthy during exercise, in the book Healthy Martial Arts and Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery
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