Prevent ACL Injuries
Prevent ACL Injuries
It seems as if once a week I am flipping on Sport Center or checking the web and I see that the night before an athlete hears their three, least favorite letters of the alphabet: ACL. While ACL injuries are not career-enders like they were 15-20 years ago, the recovery process can still take between 6-12 months, and even then, there are no guarantees. The best prevention is making sure that you are always training and that you are sound in your technique.
In order to first prevent an ACL injury, it is important to know what the ACL is and does. The ACL is one of four major ligaments in the knee and its key roles are to help stabilize the knee by preventing the tibia (lower leg) moving to far forward from the femur (thigh bone) and to prevent to much knee extension in any particular direction. It also serves to protect the menisci of the knee when you run, jump and/or suddenly change direction.
This is why the majority of ACL injuries occur when the athlete does not come into contact with anyone. During individual and team sports, participants are constantly starting and stopping abruptly and moving from left to right in a blink of an eye. Sometimes the mind wants to go where the body can’t.
However, there are exercises you can do to help put less stress and strengthen the ACL through Neuromuscular Training (NMT) programs, so you have that added strength and stability next time you are on the court or on the field.
- Squats, lunges and planks are a great way to promote strength in the lower extremities and core. These basic exercises will help strengthen the hamstrings, glutes and quads, which will aid to improve lower body strength and stability.
- Plyometrics are a great way to improve strength in and around the knee. They consist of repetitive jumping exercises, which help when an athlete needs that extra burst of speed or they have to cut suddenly. You can increase in difficulty from squat jumps to jumping from one leg to the other, to traveling jumps like the broad jump. You should increase these exercise intervals as you increase in difficulty from 20 seconds, to around 40 seconds. Be sure to focus on your landing phase of each jump. It is critical to land using good deceleration technique, absorbing the forces with your muscles and not your joints. Be sure to bend at the hips, knees and ankles upon landing on each jump.
As always, when starting a new training program or routine, make sure you consult with a certified trainer. It is important that you are taught the proper form to make sure you are maximizing the potential of the workout, while preventing further injury. You might have the proper ingredients for success, but you need a good chef to help you put it all together.
In conclusion, it is important to know that in sports, as in life, there are no guarantees. That is why we sometimes see top performers, who are physical specimens go down with minor to major injuries. Why we don’t see it more often is because of the training these athletes put in when the cameras aren’t on. You don’t have to be a pro, to gain knowledge and train like one. If you do, you will spend less time on the training table and more time improving your game.