First and foremost, let’s start with what the ACL is. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of four major ligaments that provides stability to the knee joint. These fibrous bands attach bone to bone and help control excessive motion of the knee joint and keeps the lower leg from sliding too far forward. Of the four major ligaments of the knee, ACL injuries are the most common.
An ACL injury can be devastating and often require surgery and months of rehabilitation. If your sport requires you to pivot, jump, twist, lunge or cut from side to side then your knees are at a greater risk.
The biggest prevention tip for avoiding an ACL injury is to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles, specially the front and back muscles of the thigh (the quadriceps and hamstrings). Other tips include:
- Changing your sports techniques to avoid motions that might put stress on the knee.
- Changing your lifestyle/activity to avoid sports that have a high risk of injury, such as skiing, soccer, football, or basketball.
- Wear a knee brace during high-risk activities, however be aware that a brace could give you a false sense of security and you should proceed playing your sport with caution.
Current studies are demonstrating that specific types of training when an athlete is young, such as jump routines and learning to pivot properly can help reduce ones risk for an injury. It may be beneficial to integrate prevention programs during early adolescence, prior to when youth athletes develop certain habits that can increase their risk of an ACL injury.
Another startling statistic from StopSportsInjuries.org when it comes to ACL injuries is that, more than 50,000 debilitating ACL injuries occur in female athletes at the high school and collegiate levels each year. Overwhelmingly, female athletes put greater stress on their knees as a result of different biomechanics. Three factors that play a role in more female ACL injuries are:
- Female knees are more “turned in” toward the midline of the body.
- Female knees bend less when jumping and landing.
- Females jump and run with the soles of the feed in a more rigid position, directed away from the body’s center of gravity.
Some other things to think of when it comes to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL):
- Approximately 80,000 to 250,000 ACL tears occur in the U.S. each year, 70% of which are sustained through non-contact (i.e. change of direction or cutting maneuvers combined with sudden stopping or landing awkwardly).
- Tears occur at much higher rates in young female athletes.
- Following ACL surgery, it may take a year or more to return to ones pre-injury functional level.
- Individuals who sustain an ACL tear are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Therefore, prevention is key! It takes a concerted effort, with communication between players, coaches and healthcare professionals, to prevent this type of injury.
At M&M Physical Therapy we are happy to perform assessments to identify “at risk” athletes and provide education on how to minimize ones risk for an ACL tear for players, coaches, trainers or parents. Our highly trained staff can also develop individualized sport specific programs for each athlete, with the goal being to decrease injury risk, while safely preparing athletes for their upcoming season.
Call us today to schedule your appointment 856-234-4600 or visit us online at, www.mmptnj.com.