ACL injuries are serious, debilitating and common, but they can be prevented. It takes strength training, sports-specific training, and a comprehensive injury prevention program to ensure that movements are completed properly and athletes understand techniques that enable them to move more safely with less risk of injury. This is especially important in young athletes as they are becoming more specialized in one sport year-round and at an increasingly younger age.
The ACL is the ligament that runs diagonally across the knee joint and provides stability when pivoting or changing direction. ACL tears can occur due to a variety of factors including poor technique (especially landing and cutting) or loss of neuromuscular control when the knee is loaded. Muscle imbalances and a lack of core/hip stability also increase your risk for ACL injuries.
Research has shown that a program incorporating plyometrics and strength training can decrease the incidence of ACL injury. A comprehensive ACL injury prevention program should include a warm-up that includes stretching, dynamic strengthening movements such as lunges and squats, and jumping exercises such as box jumps and lateral hops. A program should also incorporate drills that focus on agility, changing direction and proprioception training.
ACL injury is most commonly seen in females and in sports that require running, jumping, cutting and pivoting. However, acl injuries can occur in all sports and at any level of play. Efficacy of current ACL injury prevention programs has not been demonstrated to be universally protective across gender, levels of competition and type of sport.