ACL injuries are one of the most common and detrimental disruptions in the lives of athletes at all stages.
The risk can be especially high for women, who are seven times more likely to incur an ACL injury. If you or someone you love is interested in ACL injury prevention, these strategies from Rothman Institute can help you preserve your athletic health and routine.
Practice proper body alignment.
Learning how to keep your body properly aligned during movements is a key component in ACL injury prevention, as well as preserving the function of all your joints. Develop body awareness, strength, and balance to support your knees and ankles. Practice the following movements and postures:
Always jump, move, and stop with your knees directly over your feet. Never let your knees collapse inward.
Keep your chest high and directly over your knees. Bend from the hips and knees, not the back.
Point toes straight forward.
Always land as lightly as possible.
Strengthen your supporting muscles.
ACL injury prevention includes development of strength in the muscles of your hips and thighs that will create extra support for your knees. Squats and lunges are particularly effective exercises for strength training, when employed with the proper technique.
Improve your balance.
Balance is an often overlooked facet of athletic development. Many sports injuries and falls occur as the result of an athlete becoming off-balance. Practice standing on one leg at a time, as well as slow pivots and balance beam-style walking to improve your balance and the muscles that support it.
Invest in plyometric training.
Plyometric training is composed of exercises that specifically build power, strength, and speed. It mostly centers around jumping and hopping over cones and other obstacles, as well as jumping rope. Though these exercises are basic in nature, their success depends on proper, soft landing techniques.
Perform agility drills.
Agility skill exercises help to develop and strengthen underused and/or overlooked muscles that are used in stop-and-start sports. Diagonal runs, backward running, and high-knee bounding runs are good examples that strength knee-supporting muscles for ACL injury prevention.
Stretch and warm up before playing.
This will get blood circulating to your muscles and joints before you begin the hard work of your game or practice session. Include stretches for both upper and lower extremities including your hips, thighs, and calves, and pause to give special attention to any regions that are unusually tight.
Emphasize quality of movement.
When engaged in any of these exercises, remember that the quality of movement, rather than the number of reps performed, is of maximum importance. You can incur an injury through practicing too vigorously just as easily as playing a hard game.
Cool down after every game and practice.
Cooling down is essential to any exercise regimen and should never be overlooked. The muscles that have been working hard throughout each session need to elongate in order to help prevent excessive muscle soreness. Drinking water as part of your cool down is also beneficial.
Don't let a busy schedule or overactive ambition lead you to compromise your technique or overwork your body. Rest is essential for any gains to occur. Adequate sleep, rest days, and alternating hard workouts with easier workouts make you a better athlete and reduce your risk of injury.
Despite all of your best efforts at ACL injury prevention, accidental injuries can still occur. If that happens, see your physician right away. When you need more specialized treatment, Rothman Institute knee experts can help you decide which options are right for you.
For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.
- Our Field Athletic Trainers provide direct sports medicine care to youth, high school, college and professional athletes. Rothman AT's provide athletic training services throughout Southeastern PA and NJ to interscholastic high schools, colleges, as well as tournaments and special events.Read More
- The Injury Prevention Program at the Rothman Institute is dedicated to the prevention of injuries from athletic participation, particularly youth sports.Read More
- The Women's Sports Medicine Program at the Rothman Institute is the first of its kind in the Philadelphia metro area and one of only several such programs specializing in the comprehensive care of the female athlete in the country.Read More