Preventative measures to (hopefully) avoid knee injury

I am in the process of conditioning myself for my return to skatepark riding. Since this type of riding often involves drop-offs, as well as the the possibility of falling off of obstacles (hopefully on to my feet), I realize the potential for stressing or injuring my knees. Now that I’m 20 years older than the last time I rode at skateparks, I think it is important for me to do whatever I can to strengthen the muscles around my knees in order to reduce my chances of injuring my knees. In addition to riding, I am currently exercising using a rower and stair climber similar to the ones linked below.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BDQZSYB/

https://www.amazon.com/MaxiClimber-original-patented-Vertical-Climber/dp/B00K6ZURAW/

For the people who know about this sort of thing:

Do you think these exercise will help? Are there any other exercises you would recommend, such as certain types of weight machines or anything else? Would you recommend that I wear flexible knee braces when riding at skateparks? What have riders (particularly us older riders) on this forum been doing, if anything, to minimize the chance of knee injuries?

Any feedback from knowledgeable folks is much appreciated.

Why do you always want to exclude me? I would recommend that you just quit falling. That’s what I did. I took the Nancy Reagan approach and just said “no” to falling.

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Haha, if you’re no longer knowledgeable then I really don’t know what’s going on in the world! Don’t you know that falling is my greatest skill? It would be hard to give it up! I used to be like a cat and nearly always land on my feet. Now I may be more like a penguin or a panda, so who knows how I’ll land? I will try me best to take your advice, though if I attempt even half the obstacles I’ve scoped out at various skateparks that are on my list, it is highly unlikely that I’ll be successful on my first attempt. Of course, I do plan to work my way up from the small stuff to the bigger stuff, so I won’t be hitting the real challenging obstacles for a while. First thing I need to do is get a heavier wheel 36er built, so that is a priority for me. But I think you and Nancy may be on to something. Prior to each attempt at an obstacle, I’m going to take a moment to visualize you riding on top of that FN tandem van de Graaff accelerator and Nancy Reagan admonishing school kids and I will just say no to falling. I’ll let you know how it works out.

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The machines you provided links to may work well.

However, body-weight one-legged squats will work very well also (over and over and over), as will the exercises that are prescribed following an ACL reconstruction surgery.

Also, my knee surgeon said nothing is better for building strength in knee muscles than a stationary bike. It’s boring, but effective and safe.

Many other exercises help build proprioception.

I will look for my after-surgery knee recovery/therapy exercises, and will PM you when/if I find them.

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@Uni2ONE2 Thanks for the information. I will definitely look into how to do those one-legged squats. Is stationary bike riding better for building strength in my knee muscles than riding my 36er? If so, would riding my non-stationary recumbent bike be just as good as riding a stationary bike? Any further information you may be able to provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

To me, riding a recumbent stationary bike felt like I would imagine a non-stationary bike would feel, if you could find a consistent uphill track on which you could pedal for 30 minutes without coasting or stopping the pedaling motion.

And, 30 minutes to an hour sessions (or longer, according to your performance level) on a 36er is going to definitely help your knees. However, I believe you will notice more of a “pump” with the stationary bike, since you can customize the level of resistance.

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Thanks, @Uni2ONE2. I am trying hard to get my body, and especially my knee muscles, into the best shape possible. I am currently a good 10 pounds (or maybe even a bit more) lighter than I was when I was previously riding before my long break. My brother (who had knee surgery quite a long time ago) told me that being at a lighter weight can really reduce the amount of stress on my knees, so I plan to lose even more weight. I will surely continue to incorporate hour long 36er sessions and recumbent bike rides into my training and preparation, as per your recommendation. It’s very nice to get confirmation that I’m on the right track and to receive additional helpful suggestions, so much thanks!

Don’t start too fast. Any time spent on your 36er is going to strengthen your knees. Don’t feel the need to hit hour-long sessions right off the bat. Let your knees tell you when they are ready for more. Or less. But it’s better when you are confident that your knees can take more tomorrow, versus that feeling of “crap! Now I need to do NOTHING for a while until my knees stop hurting!”

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@Uni2ONE2 I started riding again a few weeks ago and I’ve already built up to an hour to two hours on my Coker (with some short rest breaks) and two laps around the Central Park loop on my recumbent (about 8.4 miles total, I think) and have been mostly feeling ok. However, I do still very much appreciate the message you are conveying that I am best not pushing myself too hard too quickly. I will take that advice to heart. I am often impatient so I tend to push myself to reach my goals as quickly as possible, but with my planned return to skatepark unicycling, I am intentionally attempting not to do that this time and to take things at a slower pace than I would have when I was younger.

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Cycling (of any kind, including unicycling provided you don’t fall) is a good start if you are starting from close to zero.

However, the requirements of falling off a unicycle in a skatepark and landing on your feet from odd angles on concrete are so much beyond that. Single leg squat variations (I like “Bulgarian split squats”), lunges, maybe some box jumps would be something I’d include to challenge your legs more and get closer to the demands of falling on concrete. The machines you showed seem to be an okay starting point, but if the focus is stability, “free” movement with body weight or some moderate weight added is the way to go IMO.

(I should really follow that advice again myself, I’ve been relying on strength I built in the past for too long now. For me, running has helped to keep some amount of impact in my training that requires stabilization of the legs, but a bit more focussed strength training would be good.)

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@finnspin Thanks for your feedback and suggestions. I very much appreciate it! I am definitely going to learn about these single leg squats, including the one you mentioned, and then start doing them. If this thread motivates you to do more focused strength training then we’ll have both benefitted from it! Let me know what exercises you do, if you move forward with focused strength training. Thanks!

Since you’ve mentioned lunges, do you think it would be good for me to start fencing again? I was a Junior Olympian and also competed in the nationals in Sabre Fencing eons ago when I was a teenager. More recently, I fenced against guys half my age or less about seven or eight years ago at a club in California, which was my first time fencing since high school, and I did surprisingly well. I’d like to get back into fencing and if it is good for my knees, then I will surely return to the sport. It’s great exercise! Thanks, again! Getting into the best shape I can for my upcoming endeavor is very important to me, so I am very grateful to you and the other members who posted in this thread.

UPDATE:

I retrieved my 5 foot giraffe from storage today and after a long, tiring day, I went out at around 11:30pm (to avoid heavy car/foot traffic and being laughed at by lots of people) to see if I would have any luck free mounting it. I didn’t. The last time I rode a giraffe was around the same timeframe my video was made, so it’s been over 15 years. I figured learning how to free mount my giraffe again would be good training for falling and that it was! I didn’t count but I’d estimate I had 15 attempts. I started remembering that I think it’s easier to push the frame in front of myself a bit and then as I stepped from the tire on to the lower pedal, I pulled it back under me. That seemed to work better. Out of about 15 attempts, I got on to the seat and started to pedal (or idle) about four times, but immediately fell off. I think my brain is tuned to the 36er, so pedaling a 20" wheel after such a long time was making things tricky for me. But falling and landing on my feet helped build my confidence even though being unsuccessful at mounting was a bummer. In hindsight, I think I would have been much better off just getting on the thing with whatever assistance I could figure out and then riding the giraffe again before jumping right into free mounting. That way I would have known that the seat height was set properly (I think it is, but I’m not certain) and I would have acclimated myself to riding a 20" wheel unicycle before going right to trying to climb up the thing. Also, since I am attempting not to push myself too hard too fast, I think I will limit myself to 10 attempts per day, no more than every other day. In any case, this whole process of getting back into unicycling again is great fun and I am really enjoying being able to have discussions about it with fellow one-wheelers from all over the world and to learn about what other riders are doing.

Since this update is semi off-topic, I am going to copy it over to a separate thread on my attempts at mounting a giraffe and add a few additional thoughts. Actually, “mounting a giraffe” doesn’t sound right to me, lol, so let’s just say “climbing on to a giraffe!”

Here’s the link to the discussion regarding my attempts at getting back in the saddle of my giraffe:

Arthritis checking in here. I don’t know what “stop hurting” feels like any more, which is part of why I’m back on the unicycle all the time. I’ve spent the majority of the last decade trying to build them up and slow down when it doesn’t feel good - but when I tore my patellar tendon a few years ago and the MRIs were like “yeah that’s pretty advanced arthritis you’ve got there” I realized it’s not going to get better and I might as well just enjoy what I’ve got.

I second the rehab exercises suggestion (not hard to find on the internet) and stationary bike for build-up. I did a lot of that over the winter (about 20 minutes a day of what they recommended plus stationary bike time), and when the weather improved I got in to a pattern of 30 minutes on the uni 3-4 days a week, with a long uni ride on the weekends. Slowly increasing the time / distance / complexity (shorter cranks, some hills, a tiny bit of muni) week-to-week. So far so good.

I feel like the key here is the time investment, not so much the specifics of which thing I’m doing or what machine it’s on. My brain is wired to like new-and-different so I need to keep it fresh all the time.

I’m in the same boat with @HardcoreCokerRider though - I have generalized concern for my knees. I’m trying to shed some weight to help, and am looking for the tools to keep it all going. Which feel mostly like needing the mental fortitude to keep investing the time, one day at a time :slight_smile:

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The more you avoid falling the slower you learn. Good protective gear allows to avoid falling avoiding. :smiley:

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I’ve already learned so I don’t need to fall anymore.

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I hardly know anything at all and I need to learn a LOT as quickly as possible, so I better gear up and fall as much as possible or I’m going to be royally screwed! :astonished:

I know this statement is correct. Anyone who rides a unicycle on top of an FN tandem van de Graaff accelerator is a Jedi Master of not falling. There is only one such person in the world to accomplish such a feat!

Hi there,
some thoughts to your posts:

  • I agree with Finn, you will need your knee most when you land on your feet, so adressing that in training would make a lot of sense. Some running, some up and down stairs, up for strength, down for coordination, footplacement skills, trailrunning would work as well.
  • landing jumps on one foot, progress from stable (hard ground with shoes) to instable surface and or differernt inclines and different directions of movement. Moving forward, to either side, a mix in between, with both feet for every direction. Also you could imitate your unicycle setting. From which height will you be landing, from what speed to get to a controled stop, what will be the character of landing zone (level, at an angel, irregular, …)
  • thinking along parcour challanges, stepping from stone to stone, from pole to pole, whatever you can use to get your eye-body-foot coordination working
  • if you want to prepare for falling, judo or aikido training can develop your movement patterns for that
  • push yourself within reasonable limits. Athletes with sportspecific experience and years of absence have a lot of skills in memory, but a body that lost adaptation for it. First half year of restarting is a great chance for overuse injuries if motivation and training volume outrun tissue adaption. Recovery is a part of training.
  • build up some muscles, then get them to school, tell them what skills to develop for your need.
  • do you ride skateboard / longboard? I find that’s a great mix of strength and coordination in training for the wheight supporting leg.
  • find out if there is any kind of brace that might help you to feel more stable / save in some way. If you have something that works four you, have it with you as a back up when needed or use proactive when leaving your safety zone.
    If something of that is useful, find your mix of what you can work with.
    Good luck and keep us posted!
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@ruka Thanks for your excellent suggestions. I will do many of them. I don’t ride a skateboard or longboard, but I would definitely consider adding that to my training, especially since it seems fun! I have already started cataloging and categorizing numerous specific skatepark challenges at skateparks in or near my area. I am rating them on a difficulty scale as follows:

0 – Novice
1 – Intermediate
2 – Advanced Intermediate
3 – Advanced
4 – Expert
5 – Master

I have rated some challenges as halfway between those 6 levels (such as a 3.5 difficulty rating). I believe I can easily conquer the level 0 and level 1 obstacles at my current skill level, so I will start riding those obstacles as part of my training. If I do well, I will move on to the level 2 obstacles as soon as I feel comfortable, and so on. Level 5 rated challenges are supposed to be so difficult as to be nearly impossible, so it’s probably unlikely that I will ever be successful at conquering a Level 5 section. I am optimistic that I will be able to conquer many Level 3 sections and I am hopeful (but far from certain) that I will be able to conquer at least one or more Level 4 sections. However, I will not even attempt any Level 3 (or greater) sections until I build my HI (High Inertia) 36er and get comfortable on it.

About six years ago I rolled my ankle horrifically badly when I was running down the stairs of the stoop of my building (wearing cheap sneakers) in a rush to get to my car in time to not get ticketed. Since then, I’ve been somewhat concerned about that ankle because it can be prone to a repeat injury. As such, I will wear a lace up ankle brace on the ankle that I previously injured. I haven’t had any knee injuries, but I’m wondering whether I should consider wearing flexible knee braces as a preventative measure. Any thoughts on this from forum members would be great! I also started pondering what kind of sneakers would be best to wear during my skatepark riding. I think the ideal sneakers for me for this type of riding would have very good ankle support, excellent traction, they would feel very solid and they would have an ample amount of good impact-absorbing material for the midsole so that falls from a decent height would be cushioned better than, let’s say, in a tennis shoe. If anyone has any recommendations for a sneaker they think meets these criteria, I would very much appreciate hearing your suggestions. Thanks!

@ruka I will most definitely post updates with my progress since you are interested. As long as there is at least one person or more interested in hearing about my riding, I will continue to post updates, and eventually photos and videos (if I manage to do anything that’s halfway decent). My aspirations are high, but I have no idea whatsoever if I will do well or if I will do terrible and let myself down. Only time will tell, but I know good preparation is very important if I want to have any real chance of pulling off what I am seeking to achieve. Thanks again for your helpful suggestions and encouragement. It means a lot to me!

So I use these Kris holm knee/shin pads- they cover from my ankles up to my knees, they help prevent bruising, and scrapes/cuts. I wear these for trail riding or muni riding. These are good if you are trying to prevent injury on ur legs. You can find them on unicycle.com

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@Mylonelyonewheelworld Thanks for the recommendation. Those leg protectors seem great! Do they hinder your mobility in any way when riding or is that not an issue? Also, welcome to the forum! I look forward to reading about what you’re up to on one wheel.

@HardcoreCokerRider Thanks! So for me I don’t feel like they restrict my movement but I also do long distance riding so I’m basically in the same position. It might be different for you if you are doing tricks, they may get in the way, idk I don’t do free style. I’ve seen people wear them for doing tricks so they may work but don’t quote me on that. But they do a good job for protecting my legs, and they are very high quailty, I’ve had them for a year and still have no rips through the fabric (- but it also depends on how intense your uni riding is) hopes this helps! :grin::+1:

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