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Why the Frequency of ACL Injuries are on the Rise

“Bellamy Knee Injury” by joncandy is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Over the past month, our physical therapy clinic in Bethesda has seen an increase in the number of people recovering from ACL injuries and repairs. Although this is a sign that sports are returning to normal, there are some important things to keep in mind when dealing with an ACL injury.

The ACL, also known as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is the tissue found in the knee joint that connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). These ligaments run diagonally in the middle of the knee, controlling the back and forth motion and provide rotational stability.

ACL injuries commonly occur in sports involving sudden movements or changes of direction, such as soccer, football, or basketball. The anterior cruciate ligament can be injured in several ways, including:

  • Rapid changes in direction
  • Sudden stopping movements
  • Slowing down while running
  • Incorrect landing from jumping
  • Direct collision or contact, such as a tackle in football.

Depending on the severity of the ACL injury, treatment can include rest and rehabilitation exercises to regain stability and strength. In severe cases, surgery may be required to replace the torn ligament.

According to Mike Reinold, a leading physical therapist, there are a few important steps to take after surgery:

  • Diminish pain and swelling after surgery using compression wraps, ice, and compression machines.
  • Restore full knee extension through a variety of range of motion and stretching exercises.
  • Gradually improve knee flexion with further stretching and functional movements such as mini-squats and lunges.
  • Maintain patellar mobility with soft tissue mobilization around the knee.
  • Restore volitional quad control using neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on the quad following the ACL surgery.
  • Restore independent ambulation by improving the ability to walk without limitations or a limp.

Although ACL injuries are impossible to avoid, a proper training program can help to reduce the risk of an ACL injury. If an injury does occur, our performance training and physical therapy clinic in Bethesda will get you back to normal in no time!

What Should You Be Drinking Before, During, and After a Run?

Much like other areas of performance training, proper hydration as an essential aspect of a comfortable, enjoyable run. Although it’s normal for runners to experience a small amount of dehydration, drinking enough fluids can significantly reduce the chances of any adverse effects. On top of that, proper hydration can improve your energy and endurance and even minimize recovery times.

Here are some general hydration recommendations to maximize run performance.

1. Pre-Run

Your hydration strategy should begin long before you start putting on your running gear. What you drink in the hours before a run is perhaps one of the most important aspects of hydration. Be mindful to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day before your run. Then, about 15–30 minutes before heading out the door, drink 250–500ml of fluids.

2. During The Run

The general rule of thumb is to drink 5–10 fl. oz. every 15–20 minutes while you are running. Again, this requirement can vary based on your individual needs or the temperature at the time of your run. However, this is a great general rule to set a baseline for how much water to bring along for your run.

If you don’t like carrying a water bottle or wearing a hydration belt, you can plan out a running route with access to water fountains along the way.

3. Post-Run

Post-run hydration is essential to get your fluid levels back to normal and helps prepare you for the next run. The general rule of thumb is to drink 16–24 fl. oz. of water for every pound lost during your run. 

Final Thoughts

Everyone — and every run — is different. Some days it’s hot and humid, and you’ll likely want to increase your fluid consumption. Other days you may only be running for 20 minutes, in which case you might not even need to bring water on the run. The more you experiment with different hydration techniques, the more in-tune you’ll be with your body and its unique hydration needs. 

Get The Most Out of Your Runs!

Whether you’re an elite runner or weekend warrior, rest days are equally important. In our years as a physical therapy clinic in Bethesda, we’ve taught our patients that the rest days are a crucial component of any good running program.

Resting is necessary to recover appropriately, avoid burnout, and develop as a runner. On days off, your body repairs and rebuilds broken-down muscle tissue from strenuous runs and training sessions. Without proper rest, you may end up needing a physical therapist in Chevy Chase or Bethesda.

Here are three simple things you can do to optimize your days off.

Catch Up On Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. During sleep, your muscles relax, and hormones that promote tissue recovery are produced. 

Without sufficient sleep, your muscles might remain tense and sore, which can even lead to chronic pain. On your days off, try getting to bed an hour earlier to catch up on this vital muscle recovery component.

Perform Light Movement

One of the most important things you can do on a rest day is perform a relaxing home exercise routine to address any inflammation or muscle tightness. Examples include light mobility work, yoga, or whatever else you may enjoy. This will help reduce muscle soreness and improve your range of motion. They’ll help your legs feel fresh and get you ready to run hard the following day.

Fuel Your Body

Another important aspect of rest and recovery is nutrition and hydration. Just because you aren’t running on a rest day doesn’t mean you should deviate from your normal nutrition strategy.

On rest days, it’s essential to fuel your body with foods that support muscle recovery and growth. This means prioritizing protein-rich foods, complex carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Focus on healthy, nutrient-dense foods to help improve muscle recovery. 

Final Thoughts

Just as your training runs are vital to your running performance, so are your rest days. Without taking the proper time to rest and recover, you’re putting your body at greater risk for injury or burnout. These three simple techniques can help optimize your rest day and improve your recovery. If you want a customized approach to optimizing your rest days, our sports physical therapy clinic in Chevy Chase can help!

Why Individualized Health & Fitness Programs Are Crucial to Injury Rehabilitation

Health and fitness have never been more prevalent than they are today. From the popularization of “superfoods” like kale and avocado to the birth of new exercise routines like CrossFit and HIIT — the desire to stay healthy and fit is at an all-time high. As a physical therapy clinic in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, this is a positive change that we’re happy to see.

Now more than ever before, people are eating healthier, exercising more, and living a more balanced, holistic lifestyle. While this is a welcomed change, there’s one significant aspect of someone’s overall health that’s often neglected — the individualization of diet and exercise.

Although there are many standard practices for eating healthy and exercising correctly, each person on this planet is unique and has different health needs. For example, someone could eat what most people consider “healthy foods” — such as spinach or broccoli — but it may not be healthy for that individual or their physiological needs.

There is no straightforward, one-size-fits-all approach to health and fitness. Even a seemingly “healthy” program for nutrition or exercise may not be suitable for everyone.

Take someone who exercises regularly and eats a clean, well-balanced diet. While they may be in shape, their diet or exercise might not be a great fit for the individual’s biology, history, medical needs, or genetic makeup. If they were to switch to a program specifically designed to their needs, they would experience a significant improvement in their overall wellness.

This is not to say that eating healthy and exercising more is bad. Instead, to maximize the health benefits, an exercise program should be customized to the individual. This is why injury rehabilitation programs in Bethesda and Chevy Chase are designed specifically for the patient or client. To improve health or recover from an injury effectively, a program must be customized to a patient’s unique fitness level, physiology, and body requirements. 

Can Hiking Make You A Better Runner?

If you’re running is starting to feel stale or boring, it might be time to switch things up. Officially known as “cross-training” in sports physical therapy, hiking can be an effective training strategy to help prepare for running. From both a physical and mental standpoint, there are several benefits that hiking will have on your running performance.

  1. Aerobic gains with less chance of injury

Hiking is the perfect low-impact cardio alternative to running that vastly decreases the impact on the joints and muscles. Doing this low-intensity activity over long periods can help improve your aerobic engine, which helps new runners.

  1. Engage different muscle groups

In our experience with performance physical therapy in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we’ve noticed that runners can sometimes rely heavily on certain muscle groups while ignoring other important ones. The uneven terrain of hiking requires lunging and squatting movements, which help activate different muscle groups. Adding hiking to your training can help to utilize less-utilized muscles.

  1. Improves balance and leg strength

Hiking, specifically on uphill climbs, requires you to use your glutes and quads to get over hills. This motion is similar to the act of running and gives the body a chance to exert itself without the added stress of actually running. Maintaining a steady pace while hiking also engages the core and stabilization muscles, improving balance and running form.

  1. Stress relief

Let’s be honest — most runners choose time-saving routes in the neighborhood or treadmill rather than getting out on a trail. Though this is great in a pinch, being in nature can help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve productivity, and increase creativity. By cross-training with a hike, you’ll not only improve your performance but your mental health as well.

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