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 keeps the lower leg from sliding too far forward. Of the four major ligaments of the knee, ACL injuries are thee 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.
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 show 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:
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.
Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation, ACL Injury Prevention Project.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Three studies examine causes, prevention of ACL injuries in women, News Item, February 26, 2005.