What is an ACL Injury?
The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is a knee ligament that attaches from the back of the femur (thigh) to the front of the tibia (lower leg) to prevent motion of the tibia on the femur. The ACL is injured when the force to the knee exceeds the ability of the ligament to stabilize it. While an injury can occur from a traumatic event, such as a direct hit to the knee, it is more commonly injured through non-contact mechanisms. This may include hyperextension, an abrupt change in direction, twisting or a combination of these motions. Activities that involve jumping and landing, open field running and cutting or deceleration moves may result in injury.
Who is at Risk for an ACL Injury?
There are approximately 250,000 ACL injuries in the United States each year. According to the Center for Injury and Research, women and girls are about 4-8 more times more likely to tear their ACL than men in practice and competition and account for more than 50% of knee injuries. Soccer, football, and basketball are the sports most commonly associated with an ACL injury.
How Can I Decrease the Risk of an ACL Injury?
ACL injury prevention programs have been developed to assist with prevention of knee and lower extremity injury. These programs typically consist of a warm-up to increase body temperature and blood flow to the muscles; stretching to the lower extremity including hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and quadriceps; plyometrics or jump training that focus on improving landing and power; and agility drills focused on coordination, speed and balance designed specifically for your sport.