No athlete would want to get sidelined with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Unfortunately, ACL injuries are common and these cause missing play time among athletes. But on the brighter side, there are programs that can help you manage and prevent ACL injuries.
How Do ACL Injuries Occur?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is found in your knee. It prevents the shinbone from sliding forward relative to the thigh bone. It plays an important role in stabilising your knee. Sports such as soccer and basketball have high incidence of ACL injuries. These injuries may occur if foot is planted and the knee twists at one point while playing soccer or when a player lands awkwardly from a jump during a basketball game. It can also occur more often in skiing. Female athletes are at higher risk of sustaining ACL injury than male athletes.
When you hear a popping noise or feel your knee give out from under you, you might have ACL injury. Other typical symptoms include:
- Pain with swelling
- Loss of full range of motion
- Tenderness along the joint line
- Discomfort while walking
ACL Tear Prevention
Many studies on ACL tears have been conducted with female collegiate athletes, because women are more likely to have this injury compared to men. Preventative physical therapy programs have been shown to lower ACL injury rates by 41% for female soccer players.
Researchers have made these recommendations for a preventive exercise program:
- The program should aim to improve balance, strength, and sports performance. Strengthening your core muscles is key to preventing injury, aside from strengthening your thigh and leg muscles.
- Exercises should be done 2-3 times a week and should have exercises specifically for sports
- The program should not be less than 6 weeks
Although most studies have been conducted with female athletes, male athletes may benefit as well.
In a study by Myklebust et al, a neuromuscular training programme was tried out among approximately 1,000 female players in the top three divisions In Norwegian handball. The programme includes 3 different balance and strength exercises focusing on neuromuscular control and cutting and landing skills. The players were encouraged to be focused and aware of their movements, emphasising on the core stability and hip and knee position in relation to foot position. Results show significant reduction in the risk of ACL injuries from the control season to the second intervention season among the elite players who completed the programme.
Any injury prevention programme that can reduce the risk of ACL injury is a golden-ticket to athletes. Prevention programs to prevent ACL injuries typically include emphasis on injury awareness, avoidance techniques, and stretching, strengthening, and jumping exercises.
Most ACL injuries need rehabilitation. It will help you restore normal range of motion and flexibility in your knee. Rehabilitation programs also strengthen the knee and the surrounding muscles to increase knee stability.