ACL Injury Prevention: Tips to Protect Your Knees
by Kennedy Greene, PT, DPT, Cert DN
AzOPT Gilbert Doctor of Physical Therapy
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a crucial part of the knee joint, providing stability and support. Unfortunately, ACL injuries are common among athletes and active individuals. This injury significantly impacts your ability to participate in preferred activities. On average, there are over 100,000 ACL injuries per year. Females are 2-8 times more likely to tear their ACL compared to males. In this blog post, we will discuss what you need to know about ACL injuries and provide tips for preventing them.
Understanding ACL Injuries
The ACL is a band of connective tissue located in the center of the knee joint, connecting the femur to the tibia. When the ACL is damaged, it can cause pain, swelling, and instability in the knee. ACL injuries most often occur suddenly during high-impact activities like jumping and landing but can also occur gradually because of repetitive stress.
Certain factors can increase the risk of ACL injuries, including:
- Gender – Women are more likely to suffer ACL injuries than men, potentially due to differences in anatomy and muscle activation patterns. Females who are most at risk are under age 18.
- Age – Young athletes, especially those going through growth spurts, are more susceptible to ACL injuries.
- Sports-specific factors – High-risk sports for ACL injuries include soccer, basketball, and skiing. Individuals who are 15-17 years old and participate in handball sports are also at high risk of ACL tears.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of ACL injuries:
Exercise: incorporate plyometrics, work in multi-directional planes, improve proximal muscular control, endurance, and strength training. Exercises include:
Vertical and lateral jumps
Nordic hamstring curls
Half plank hip abduction
Warm-up and cool-down: Make sure to properly warm up and cool down before and after exercise or sports.
- Warm-up routine – forward running, shuttle running, and backwards running along with dynamic stretching.
- Cool-down routine – static hamstring, quad, figure 4, hip flexor, and calf stretching.
ACL Injury Prevention through Physical Therapy
ACL injuries can be painful and debilitating, but with the right preventive measures, you can reduce your risk. Physical therapy is the best first-line option for preventing ACL injuries and maintaining the health of your knee joint. A licensed physical therapist can help you improve your overall movement and stability, reduce your risk of injury, and recover from surgery, if needed. By incorporating physical therapy into your routine, you can protect your knees and keep participating in the activities you love without pain or limitation.
If your knee pain is limiting your ability to live your best life, contact your nearest AzOPT physical therapy clinic today to schedule your free consultation. Find out specifically how physical therapy can help you protect your knees and maintain your mobility for years to come.