ACL Injuries and How to Prevent Them

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An ACL injury may happen to basketball, football and soccer players and athletes of all varieties. We hear about pro athletes sidelined for the season as a result, but they also occur in active men and women of all ages and athletic abilities. In fact, anterior cruciate ligament injuries, or ACL injuries, are one of the most common forms of knee injuries.

Rebound’s physical therapists, athletic trainers and sports medicine specialists focus on injury prevention and treatment, and to celebrate National Athletic Training Month, they have some tips on preventing the painful and common ACL injury. But first, a little background information on this important ligament.

What is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)?

The ACL is one of four major ligaments in the knee. It runs diagonally in the middle of the knee. Inside the knee, the ACL crosses the posterior cruciate ligament. Together, they control and maintain the back and forth motion of your knee. They also prevent rotational movements. The ACL’s function in particular is to prevent the tibia bone from sliding in front of the femur bone.

What causes an ACL injury?

There are many different ways to acquire an ACL injury, but some of the most common occur from sports-related activity. Sports that involve sudden or abrupt stopping, landing or changing direction most commonly see athletes experience an ACL injury.

“You often see basketball players injure their ACLs because of the nature of the game- it is constant play involving jumping and extreme and rapid cuts in direction,” says Dr. Evan D. Ellis, one of Rebound’s board certified orthopedic surgeons and knee specialists. “However, there are training and strengthening techniques athletes of all types can engage in to prevent this painful and debilitating injury.”

What can you do to prevent ACL injury?

ACL injury prevention starts with appropriate exercise. By practicing these six common forms of preventive training, you may reduce the risk of sprain.

Stretching

Athletes should adequately stretch multiple regions including the calf, quads, hamstrings, hip adductor and hip flexor.

Stretching_Knee

Warm Ups

Some warm up exercises include side-to-side shuffles, high-knees, jogging forward and backward, trunk rotations and leg swings.

Balancing

Balance exercises should be practiced in three forms: static, perturbation and dynamic. Static exercises involve balancing on a single leg, whereas perturbation exercises may involve a ball toss, work with a partner or upper body movement. Dynamic training involves practicing balance on an unstable surface, like a BOSU ball.

Strengthening

It is important to not only focus on strengthening your legs, knees or thighs. Combine core musculature exercises like crunches, planking and pushups with hip and thigh exercises like lunges, squats and bridges.

Strengthening_Exercise

Plyometrics

Plyometrics is also known as jump training, and involves exercises such as double leg jumps, single leg jumps, ladder drills and more. Rebound offers an ACL Injury Prevention Jump Program that is specifically designed to help prepare athletes for this common injury. The program is a form of neuro-muscular plyometric training, which incorporates coordination, balance and strength techniques to decrease landing force, improve and correct strength ratios and balance, and increase stability.

Technique

Technique exercises help you achieve proper usage of knees, hips and feet. The goal is to improve your movement quality and teach you how to decrease shock to bones, joints and muscles upon landing. Rebound physical therapists and athletic trainers work with athletes on proper form and mechanics in the Jump Program and in Rebound’s physical therapy clinics.

To improve your strength, technique and agility, and learn how to reduce the risk of an ACL injury, visit with one of our specialists. Our team is dedicated to preventive care and sport-specific analysis.

Additional Resources: 

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Rebound ACL Injury Prevention Jump Program

Rebound Knee Replacement Surgery, ACL and Meniscus Surgery

ACL Reconstruction Animation

National Athletic Trainers’ Association – Preventing ACL Injuries & Improving Performance

Save Your Knees