Training smarter, not harder for ACL injury prevention.

Injury to the ACL, which stands for anterior cruciate ligament, is the most common knee injury among athletes. And it’s a story that’s all too familiar. An athlete suddenly tears their ACL, and their promising future in soccer or other choice of sport is suddenly bleak.

Although an ACL injury is treatable, it is our hope at the Orthopedic Center of Palm Beach County that fewer people experience this injury in the first place.

But first, what exactly is an ACL injury?

The ACL is a crucial component of the larger knee joint that aids in stabilization. An ACL injury occurs when the ligament is torn, which could be to varying degrees. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment involves physical therapy and rehabilitation, or surgery followed by additional physical therapy. When the injury first occurs, many people report hearing a “popping” sound and experience significant swelling to the knee afterwards.

Common movements that cause ACL injury

  • Sudden stops or changes in direction
  • Jumping, landing, or pivoting incorrectly
  • Impact to the knee, such as from football tackles

Sports where ACL injury is common:

  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Skiing

The risk for ACL injury in women

It’s worth noting that injury to the ACL is far more common in women than in men due to a variety of factors. In fact, some studies show that women are anywhere from 2 to 10 times more likely to experience an ACL injury—which is a huge difference. The specific causes for the higher risk to women vary per study, but it is likely a combination of physical and genetic differences and hormones that impact the flexibility of the ligament itself.

That said, it is even more important for female athletes to focus on knee injury prevention.

How athletes can train for ACL injury prevention

Although it’s tempting for many athletes to focus on the core skills needed for their sport, physical training and conditioning is what will prevent injury. As a bonus, stronger athletes typically make for better players anyways.

By focusing on properly warming up before training sessions, active stretching before and after workouts, and strength building exercises in the supporting muscles of the knee, athletes can reduce their risk. Since there is plenty of research on how ACL injuries occur, we can use this knowledge to train smarter, not harder.

For example, since injury often occurs when landing from jumps, athletes and their coaches can focus on drills specific to landing with proper form. An emphasis in landing with soft knees and distributing weight to the ball of the foot is crucial.

Here are a few specific tips and programs that can help with training for prevention.

Implement the Fifa 11+ Program for soccer players

This program was specifically created for soccer players to prevent knee injury. It’s a comprehensive program that combines plyometrics, strength training and agility drills that emphasize proper form to protect the knee.

Although it is designed for soccer players, many of these techniques would be beneficial for any athlete and could easily be adapted for other sports.

Avoid overtraining or ignoring minoring injuries

Sports communities of all kinds can often fall victim to a culture of overtraining or pushing past pain. However, this can be one of the most dangerous behaviors in athletes and people are more likely to make mistakes and get injured when they are tired or in pain.

If you’re an athlete, coach, or parent of an athlete, do what you can to structure rest days and recovery into your training program. And, when experiencing pain or injury, see a doctor or take the appropriate time off from training. It may be frustrating in the short term, but will save you costly and dangerous injuries in the long term.

Think you’re at risk of, or currently have an ACL injury? Talk to one of our specialists today.

Our highly trained and specialized orthopedic team have been serving the Palm Beach County area for 65 years. We’d be happy to serve you, too. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.