The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a well-known and highly infamous ligament in the knee that many athletes and individuals are far too familiar with. ACL injuries are common and can be debilitating and serious. However, that does not mean they cannot be prevented. In fact, there are a few simple measures that individuals can take to dramatically reduce the risk of experiencing an ACL tear.
What is the ACL?
First, let’s discuss the ACL itself. The ACL is a ligament located in the knee. The knee joint consists of three bones (the femur, tibia, and patella) which are connected and stabilized by four ligaments. The ACL runs diagonally across the center of the knee. It connects the femur to the tibia and provides rotational stability. It is most torn during activities that involve sudden stops and changes in direction.
ACL and sports
ACL injury statistics report that sprains or tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) affect approximately 150,000 people annually, the majority of which are athletes. The incidence rate for ACL tears in sports is significantly high, but the good news is that most of these injuries can be effectively mitigated with the implementation of an ACL injury prevention program. If you can prevent an ACL injury, you can bypass physical trauma, an interrupted sports season, and the intensive process of rehabilitation and treatment.
5 Tips for ACL Injury Prevention
- Implement targeted strength training.
- Weakened knee ligaments, knee bones, and associated muscles can make athletes more prone to ACL tears and injuries. Strength training that targets the ACL and the other musculoskeletal components of the knee can significantly increase resilience against orthopedic injury. Recommended strength training includes high intensity jumping plyometrics and exercises that strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings.
- Focus on balance.
- Many ACL injuries occur during sports from a quick change in direction, a sudden slow down or stop, a faulty landing, or a collision. Improving balance and strengthening the small, stabilizing muscles in your feet, ankles, legs, and knees can help to prevent unnatural twists and pivots that lead to ACL tears. Additionally, focusing on balance enhances reaction time and resilience, so it’s a win all around!
- Don’t forget to warm up.
- Muscles and ligaments that are cold and stiff are much more likely to experience injuries. Warming up prior to intense activity can help to loosen muscles and adequately prepare them for the activities that lie ahead. As a result, warming up helps to decrease the severity of injury and reduce the overall risk of injury.
4. Practice good mechanics and technique.
- Mastering the foundational skills of sports and activities with quality movements and appropriate form is highly important. Skills improve through numerous repetitions and consistent practice. Learning a skill with proper technique helps to bulletproof athletes against injuries, such as ACL tears. Therefore we emphasize the best form possible with each and every rep.
5. Meet with a sports physical therapist.
- A trained sports physical therapist can help athletes improve their performance while reducing the risk of injuries, such as the infamous ACL tear. This is done by taking athletes through a physical examination where musculoskeletal strength, joint mobility, and mechanics are closely observed and analyzed. Areas susceptible to sprains or tears are specifically targeted and individualized exercises are provided to improve these anatomical regions to keep athletes strong and injury-free.
ACL injuries are common, but they do not have to be. It is time to start taking charge of your health by proactively taking care of your body. At AbsoluteTx, we are proud to help athletes stay injury-free by bulletproofing their knees with a solid ACL injury prevention program. Let’s be PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE. This is Physical Therapy 2.0! Are you an athlete trying to stay injury-free? Let us help you get strong and stay injury-free.
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