Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries Prevention

In any sport that requires sudden change of direction, pivoting, and sudden jumping such as football and soccer, ACL injuries are common. Most of the ACL injuries are non-contact and occur during sudden twisting motion when the feet are planted in one direction and knees are nearly fully extended. Female athletes are more prone to such injuries, although there is no link between age and gender. However, landing, cutting, and pivoting maneuvers may vary between male and female athletes.

A common reason why there has been an increase in ACL injuries is mainly as nowadays no one gives importance to the basics of all sports such as squatting, running, and landing mechanics. Coupled with performing repeated inefficient movements, no rest and time to recover can be disastrous for your knees.

Most of these non-contact injuries can be prevented with appropriate training.

Every athlete needs to know how to move in perfect alignment in order to protect their knees. Develop body awareness, strength, and balance to support and protect your knees and ankles.

1. Mechanics

All athletes should know how to correctly squat, lunge jump, and land without knee or ankle collapse. Never let your knees collapse inwards. Develop a habit of landing and jumping using the correct technique. Proper planting and pivoting should also be taught from a young age.

2. Strength

The strength of the quadriceps muscle is the standard which indicates how well an athlete will perform post an ACL tear recovery. The quadriceps muscles are the most abused and overused muscles as the gluteus medius is totally neglected. Lack of core and hip strengthening muscle exercises are also responsible for these injuries. Do warm-ups and stretches before games and practice.

3. Recovery

Professional sportsmen do not play sports all year long as playing continuously also significantly contributes to injuries. Proper rest, adequate nutrition, and sleep help to improve performances.

Every ACL prevention program should incorporate balance, agility, performance drills in the warm-up phase during training and practice.

  • Always warm-up before playing. This helps to improve blood circulation to the muscles and joint.
  • Stretch all muscles especially thighs, calves, and hips. This improves flexibility.
  • Strengthen your hips and thighs as they support your knees. Perform squats and lunges to strengthen them.
    • When you perform squats, remember to keep your knees and feet facing straight ahead. Try to squat on just one leg.
    • Perform walking lunges halfway across the field and back.
    • Strengthen the core muscle around your back, chest, abdomen, and hips. This will improve overall stamina and fitness and make you a better athlete.
    • Balance always improves with practice.
  • Agility changing direction
    • Run to a line and plant your foot without letting your knees collapse inwards to change direction.
    • Always remember: hips over knees over ankles.
  • Practice jumping and safe landing techniques.
    • Jump straight up a number of times. Land with your feet and knees pointing straight ahead. Practice proper landing techniques. Keep your knees bent chest high, buttocks back, and land smoothly.
  • While practicing any of these movements, always emphasize on the quality of movement rather than the quantity.

Targeted neuromuscular training interventions may just be the best way to reduce the risk of ACL injuries.

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