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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: knee injury

Continuing Education Courses

I wanted to make everyone aware of two courses that I am presenting in the next 2 weeks in conjunction with Allied Health Education:


The first is a (2) hour webinar on Current Concepts in the Recognition and Treatment of Femoroacetabular Impingement tonight, August 23 from 8-10 PM. The course is intended for PT’s, PTA’s and ATC’s looking for an in-depth presentation on the condition and its management. Click here for more information.

In addition, I am scheduled to present two (1) day seminars on “Fit Knees” in Greensboro, NC on Sept. 7 and Richmond, VA on Sept. 8. This lecture/workshop event will feature my evidence based approach to injury prevention and rehabilitation for knee osteoarthritis, running injuries and ACL injuries.

The material presented in this seminar is intended to help identify knee dysfunction and implement safe and effective rehab, corrective exercise and training strategies tailored to meet the needs of each client. Attendees will learn how the presenter utilizes the FMS, Y-Balance test and other screening tools to determine limb asymmetry and imbalances. Additionally, participants will learn how to use assessment and current research to create effective training programs, facilitate the rehab process and guide post-rehab decision making.  Click here for more information.

If you have further questions, feel free to post them on the blog.

Well, I have an update on player x.  She saw my preferred soccer/knee orthopedist in town on Wednesday.  He examined her and read the comments I gave to her mother as well.  In summary, he agreed with me that she had patello-femoral pain/inflammation.

He also told the mother she had just gone back to soccer too quickly and never fully regained her quad strength.  He told her if she continued to work around the deficit, she would likely suffer another injury.  This is often the case.  So, at this point the plan of action is to take a one month hiatus from soccer and do formal rehab three times per week.

While this process will be much slower and less active for player x, it probably will be for the best in the long run.  In the short term, she may suffer some loss of fitness, but she needs to focus on strengthening right now.  I will keep you updated on her progress as time goes by.  She will likely return to me for conditioning to transition her safely back to full soccer once therapy winds down.

In the last post, I identified the issue I believed to be going on with player x.  Keep in mind the player returned to  see me the week of 12/15 intially.  The first line of treatment for PF issues in most clinical scenarios involves the following:

  1. Rest
  2. Ice
  3. Stretching (quads, hamstrings, IT band and hip musculature)
  4. Straight leg raises
  5. Short arc quads (mini-knee extensions from 30-0 degrees if you will on a bolster) although I am not a huge fan of these
  6. Mini-squats
  7. Calf raises

I advocated relative rest, ice and stretching with my athlete in addition to the following exercises initially:

  1. Single leg step-downs (side progressing to front version) in pain free range
  2. Single leg stiff legged dead lifts
  3. Single leg bent knee floor hamstring bridges
  4. Lateral ankle band walks for gluteus medius work
  5. Multi-planar lunges in pain free range of motion

She did well with all of the exercises after week one but noted pain with front step-downs and deeper lunges.  On 12/22 I made a significant discovery: she had adopted a compensatory hip strategy to avoid normal knee kinematics with deceleration.  What am I referring to?  I call it a quad avoidance lunge pattern.  She would shift her trunk into extension with foot contact when lunging onto the affected knee as a result of anticipation of pain. (See video clip below as I show a normal lunge pattern, a quad avoidance lunge pattern and the exericse I use to break it)

To help break this cycle, I used an 18 inch box to elevate her unaffected foot and force her into more normal hip flexion on the affected side in a pain free range.  This seemed to work so we added this to the home program using a stair step and eliminated front step-downs altogether, choosing instead to focus on the side step-down in the 40-0 range if you will.  I also added single leg soccer kicks (no ball) forward and in a crossing fashion to work on stability, strength and proprioceptive control.

The athlete returned on 12/31 and seemed to be progressing but still had discomfort with running.  So, I felt she was not ready for full go as of yet.  She also still had discomfort with short and long shuffles moving to the involved side.  At this point, her mom wanted to know what I thought. about practice.

I advised her that player x needed to continue with strengthening 3x/week and try to ease back into jogging as able.  She said the first indoor practice was coming up the week of 1/4.  My thoughts? Indoor soccer fields and PF pain are a bad fit – period.  But, I told her to let her daughter warm-up and do a few drills to get a feel for things.

The verdict?  I got an email on Saturday saying she could not practice due to the same discomfort.  Her next stop is back at the surgeon’s office for a closer look at the knee tomorrow.  I will keep you posted on the diagnosis and treatment as this is an issue that all of us who work with athletes face and struggle with.  Finding the right balance and progression between rest, rehab and return to play is tricky.  So stay tuned for more details.

I have posted on the perils of patello-femoral pain in the past on this blog.  Today, I will share how surgery to fix one knee problem may lead to a new problem.  For privacy reasons, I will refer to my client as player x. 

History: Player x is a 15 y/o healthy female soccer player who suffered a lateral menscus tear in the summer of 2009.  She had arthroscopic repair followed by a brief stint (4-6 weeks) of rehab.  Surgery went well, but she did not regain full extension in rehab (she has about 5 degrees of hyper extension naturally).

Prior to fall high school season, player x came to me for sport reconditioning.  She had obvious quad atrophy (particularly the VMO) and lacked speed and explosiveness.  She worked with me 1-2x/week for 4-6 weeks and made good progress but did note some mild persistent soreness in her knee.

She played the entire fall season without injury/limitation but continued to have the same mild persistent knee pain.  The first week she began club practice (fall high school season had ended), her club coach had the players do a lot of plyometrics.  The exercises did not seem hazardous, but player x immediately had a significant increase in knee pain.

Her mother contacted me and she recently came back in for an assessment.  Ironically enough, her single leg squat and single leg broad jump were within 90% of her uninvolved leg.  However, she had mild swelling, Quad atrophy (about a 1 1/2 inch deficit) and she had significant pain with lateral movement to the side of her involved knee and could not decelerate without pain.

Hmmm…..   So what is the issue here?  After carefully evaluating her and performing functional testing I was able to rule out quadriceps tendinitis.  Her pain occurs primarily at or beneath the superioir and lateral portion of the knee cap at 30-40 degrees of flexion when she is weight-bearing.

I am fairly confident she has patello-femoral joint irritation with excess compression along the lateral facet.  Why?

  1. Perhaps the slight extension deficit allowed her to run more on a slightly bent knee (more PF force)
  2. Weak VMO is overpowered by the vastus lateralis creating abnormal lateral translation of the patella
  3. Pain is worse with deceleration and eccentric strength exercise going past (greater quad pull and patellar compression occurs with these activities)
  4. Pain with lateral movement and change of direction suggest lack of proper medial stability and dynamic control of femoral internal rotation which would subject the kneecap to abnormal joint reaction forces especially laterally where her pain is felt
  5. No pin point tenderness consistent with soft tissue inflammation

The entire scenario has likely been perpetuated by the volume of training/running in soccer and was then exacerbated by the plyometrics.  She compensated and ignored the mild pain all fall, but the knee finally reached a breaking point with the plyos (keep in mind she did no plyos in the high school fall season).

I see patello-femoral pain all the time in female year-round soccer players.  What is the solution?  Stay tuned as I will share more details about patella balancing training and my corrective exercise program for player x in the next post.