Building Strong Knees

The Warriors' athletic trainer helps Erick Dampier with his surgically repaired knees

We see a variety of knee problems ranging from surgical injuries to chronic inflammation. When a player is faced with taking care of a knee injury, strength and rehabilitation exercises are critical components of his daily routine. Athletic trainers and strength coaches work closely with the players to tailor specific protocols that are easily followed and extremely efficient.

The exercises that are described below are some of our basic exercises and can be done with minimal equipment. Our profiled player is Erick Dampier. He is currently rehabilitating a hyperextend knee, but has had arthroscopic surgery in the past. If you have a knee injury that has required clinical therapy, it is recommended that you follow your therapy plan. Also check with your clinician to make sure these exercises are appropriate for your case.

Straight Leg Raise: This is one of the most time-honored knee rehabilitation exercises. The straight leg raise is an isometric contraction of the quadriceps muscles, the powerful muscles of the thigh. Simply place a weight cuff on the ankle and raise the leg up. The player’s position is important: keep the exercising leg straight and the opposite knee bent. Take the leg up to about a 45-degree angle and then hold it for three to six seconds and return the leg to the table after the contraction. Three sets of 10 repetitions is a very good sequence for this.

Lateral Step Up: The lateral step up is a nice intermediate exercise between the isometric straight leg raise and other dynamic exercises that place more demands on the knee. We are using a commercial exercise step platform in this demonstration, but any platform or box similar to this will work. It is good to use a step that is between six and eight inches high. Place the injured leg on the step and your body weight will act as the resistance. When stepping down, touch the floor with the heel and then rise up. A sequence of three sets of 15 repetitions is a good goal.

Wall Sits: Much like the straight leg raise, the wall sit is an isometric exercise that is good for the quadriceps. Simply lean against a wall and slide down into a position where the knees are bent slightly. Then, hold this position for up to 30 seconds, three times. This may not seem too difficult, but it is more challenging than it looks!

Ball on the Wall Squat: This is a popular exercise in many sports medicine clinics and easily adapted for home use. Use the same position as the wall sit, but put a basketball in the small of your back and then squat up and down slowly. Keep the heels flat on the floor and try to get the thigh down parallel to the ground, but no deeper. A sequence of three sets of 15 repetitions is a goal for this exercise also. If more of a challenge is desired, try to hold a lightweight dumb-bell in each hand to add resistance.

These exercises are a staple for our players while traveling. When on the road we do this work in a hotel room, thus we know they can easily be done in the comfort of one’s home.

Tom Abdenour in his 16th season as the athletic trainer for the Warriors. He spent his 2000 offseason serving as the athletic trainer for the gold medal-winning USA Men's Basketball Team at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He also stays involved with the community as a member of the NBA's National All-Star Reading Team -- part of the Read to Achieve program.

Abdenour is hosting's Athletic Trainer Talk section and will be answering fan questions about health, injuries and rehabilitation through the 2002-03 season.

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