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Health Information | 03/02/2023

Exercises to Help Prevent and Manage Sports Injuries

By  Bethany Noyes, PT
woman with knee pain

Are you a runner or do you frequently play sports like tennis, squash, or basketball? Do you often deal with an injury from your activity, or do you just want to learn more about how to prevent injury while being as active as possible? These exercises will help improve your stability and strength which are key to avoiding, preventing and managing injuries to the knee, hip, ankle or back as a result of recreational activity or a competitive sport. (But remember: before beginning this or any exercise program, please consult a healthcare provider for appropriate health advice and safety precautions.)



The goal of this exercises is to build a strong gluteal medius muscle, which is our primary stabilizer of the pelvis. This is a great exercise for runners or any activity requiring lateral stability such as soccer, basketball, tennis and football.

  • The KEY is to engage your hips by sitting back and engage your core – do NOT arch your lower back.
  • Avoid allowing your knees to go too far forward


  • Start with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips, while keeping your head, neck, and back straight
  • Raise your one arm and reach it forward maintaining neutral spine
  • Then raise opposite leg using your core to stabilize your body
  • Bring opposite elbow and knee under your body to touch if possible then extend back out to start position as shown. Perform 15-20 reps, then switch sides.
  • The key is stabilizing your core – do not stretch your arm and leg to the point where your low back starts to arch
Bird Dog Exercise Benefits
  • Increases core strength in both abs and lower back
  • Improves stability
  • Increases kinesthetic awareness (where your body is in space and time)
  • Can be made more challenging with different variations
  • It’s easy to do anywhere…NO gym required!



This exercise isolates the hip stabilizers that provide our pelvis with necessary support to perform single leg movement.

  • Lie on your side, with legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
  • Rest your head on your lower arm (make sure to keep your neck neutral and relaxed), and use your top arm to steady your frame. Be sure that your hip bones are stacked on top of one another, as there is a tendency for the top hip to rock backward.
  • Contract your abdominals and pull your belly button in, as this will help to stabilize your spine and pelvis.
  • Keeping your feet touching, raise your upper knee as high as you can without shifting your hips or pelvis. Don’t move your lower leg off the floor. The height will vary person to person but typically you want to stay under an 8” lift with the top knee
  • Pause, and then return your upper leg to the starting position on the ground.



Foam rolling is a great soft tissue technique that should really be a part of anyone’s routine, whether you’re fairly sedentary or a high level athlete. So many issue areas can be addressed through use of a foam roller.

  • For purposes of this blog, we are focusing on the gluteal muscles and IT band.
  • It is best to foam roll after work-outs when muscles are warm, and I would recommend doing this a minimum of 3x per week.
  • Roll out tight areas to tolerance to help muscles recover.
  • The IT band is made of connective tissue which has a poor blood supply and will therefore be more uncomfortable to foam roll than areas like the gluts which have a great blood supply.
  • You can also use a tennis ball or a rolling stick to work on tight soft tissue and muscle recovery.
  • All these items can be found at your local gym or easily through sporting goods stores or on Amazon.



The purpose of this exercise is to improve necessary gluteal strength and stability for “single leg” activities such as running.

  • Keep the ball at a distance where you can control it – you don’t want to have the ball wobbling side to side.
  • It’s not unusual to experience some hamstring cramping as you are building strength. This simply means your hamstrings are jumping in to help the weak gluteal muscles.
  • If this occurs, take a break, reset and continue with reps. You may have to reduce the reps and sets with this exercises until you build strength; likewise, you can increase reps and sets as you become stronger.



If “single leg” training isn’t part of your program, it should be! Walking, running and directional changes are all activities that at some point in time will require a single leg stance, strength and stability. The ability to transfer your body’s load from the ground and up the kinetic chain for forward movement is pivotal.

  • To begin this exercise, simply stand on one leg.
  • Once you have stability, slowly hinge forward, keeping your back flat (not bent).
  • It is ok to have a slight bend in your stance leg.
  • Only hinge down to the point you can control and avoid any excessive wobbling.
  • Come back up to the start position and repeat 10-15 reps on each side.
  • You can expect to feel your outer hip working especially toward end of the repetitions.
We are happy to help expand this program or offer a more customized program to meet your orthopedic and sports needs. We simply need a physical therapy referral from your doctor and we can set up an initial evaluation.

About The Author

Bethany Noyes, PT

Beth joined Atrius Health in 2012 and supervises the Harvard Vanguard Kenmore physical therapy department in addition to providing patient care. Beth is a Maine native and received her Master’s degree in physical therapy from Husson College. She has worked in various outpatient settings throughout New England as well as Boston area hospitals. Beth has a clinical interest in sports medicine and orthopedics. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, spending time with her niece and nephew, and exercising.

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