ACL Injury Prevention

What is an ACL Injury?

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
is one of four major ligaments that provide
stability to the knee joint. These fibrous bands
attach bone to bone and help control excessive
motion of the knee joint and keep the lower leg
from sliding too far forward. Of the four major
ligaments of the knee, ACL injuries are the most
common. The majority of ACL repairs that occur
each year are done on young athletes
(under age 25) and female athletes.

 

 

What Causes an ACL Injury?

ACL injuries are common in sports that involve sudden changes of direction, such as football, and soccer. Most are non-contact injuries that occur during sudden twisting motion (for example, when the feet are planted one way and the knees are turned another way) or when landing from a jump.

The causes of ACL injury have recently been the focus of research. Factors contributing to ACL injuries include ground hardness, grass type and cleat type. But one of the other major findings is that women are nearly three times more likely to have ACL injuries than men. And some statistics says that a female soccer player is eight times more likely to injury her ACL than a male soccer player.

Researchers believe this may be due to differences in hormone levels on ligament strength and stiffness, neuromuscular control, lower limb biomechanics, ligament strength and fatigue. Findings have shown a difference in neuromuscular control in women when landing jumps (women appear to have less hip and knee flexion than men).

How Do I Prevent an ACL Injury?

Athletes can reduce their risk of ACL injuries by performing training drills that require balance, power and agility. Adding plyometric exercises, such as jumping, and balance drills helps improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions and ultimately shows a decrease in the risk of ACL injury. Many team physicians now routinely recommend an ACL conditioning program, especially for their female players.

The Santa Monica ACL Prevention Project developed an ACL Injury Prevention Program specifically for female soccer players. This 15-minute training program incorporates balance, agility and performance drills into the warm up phase of training and practice.

Phases of the ACL Injury Prevention Program should be performed at least 2-3 times per week during the season and includes:

  1. Warm Up
  2. Stretching
  3. Strengthening
  4. Plyo-metrics
  5. Agility Drills
  6. Cool Down

Agile Physical Therapy's active dynamic warm-up

The Bottom Line for ACL Injury Prevention
For both men and women who participate in start and stop sports, appropriate skills training such as those in the above program, may be the key to staying injury free.