Up until about 10 years ago I wasn’t even sure what an “ACL” injury was. During my senior year in high school two of my best friends both tore their ACL’s, one playing football and the other basketball. The injury caused both of them to end their high school athletic careers prematurely and ever since then it seems like one of the most common injuries we hear about are ACL tears. So what is an
ACL? The “Anterior Cruciate Ligament” (“ACL”) is one of the four major ligaments located in our knees. The ACL attaches in the front of the “intercondyloid eminence” of the tibia and really helps to control how far forward the tibia moves in relation the our femur.
What does the ACL do? A stable ACL allows players in all sports to run powerfully and make sharp cuts, kicks and pivots; a crucial ligament for athletic success. The problem is one wrong twist of the knee and ACL can tear which will require surgery to repair and a long road to recovery with months of rehab. It makes sense as to why this type of injury is becoming more common in the college/professional ranks as athletes have become bigger, faster and stronger…great for ratings but increasingly dangerous for the athlete. There have been some very high profile ACL Tears in the past few years - Derrick Rose, Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III, Blake Griffin, Wes Welker, just to name a few.
Another big concern for experts has been the dramatic increase in this injury in youth sports. According to a
New York Times Article, there are no complete or official numbers, but experts estimate that several hundred thousand children and young adults are getting ACL tears each year and that number is soaring recently. What used to be an injury that doctors saw a few times annually has now become a case that shows up weekly. So why the increase? Doctors say the injury doesn’t occur from overuse but simply from twisting the knee. Experts feel that diagnoses are on the rise for two reasons...First, because of how easily detected these injuries are now doctors are finding tears on a regular basis. The second thought is that doctors feel these severe injuries are dramatically on the rise due to athletes constantly being “in season.” Athletes play year-round, on multiple teams, with frequent games at higher intensities than previous generations…thus the risk of injury is increased under these circumstances. There is no way to avoid an ACL injury. Over 80% of torn ACL’s are “non-contact injuries.” However, there are a few great strengthening exercises that athletes can execute to strengthen their ligaments and the areas in and around their knees. The “
squat” is a great exercise as it helps strengthen one’s core, buttocks and upper legs which helps take pressure off an athlete’s knees. An athlete can perform this exercise with no weights or resistance and just use their body weight. The “
lateral lunge” is another great exercise as it forces an athlete to decelerate movement through one hip at a time, placing emphasis on gluteals and hamstrings. It will also train the athlete to move correctly in the lateral direction where many injuries occur. Finally, “
lateral bounding” is a great exercise for athletes. This exercise trains the hamstrings and gluteals to decelerate the body at real-time speed, making it a very functional “ACL Prevention” exercise. Injuries can never 100% be prevented but it is important to be aware and take every step to avoid injuries if possible. Written By: Eric Blumenthal