What is the ACL?
The ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament. It is one of two ligaments that helps stabilize the knee. The ACL specifically connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) and plays a crucial role in maintaining stability of the knee joint. Its main function is to prevent excessive forward movement of the tibia in relation to the femur and to assist in rotational stability. Unfortunately, it is the most commonly injured ligaments in the knee with roughly 100,000 to 200,000 reported incidences in the United States every year.
How can ACL injuries happen?
There are many ways the ACL can tear or sprain. It can be injured during activities that involve sudden stops, changes in direction, or direct trauma to the knee. Surprisingly, most ACL tears happen to athletes by non-contact versus contact mechanisms. Athletes of sports such as soccer, basketball, skiing, and football are at a higher risk of ACL injuries, but that does not limit the chance of this injury happening to anyone.
It has also been said that women are more prone to an ACL injury. Some studies claim that women may have weaker hamstrings which cause them to use the quadriceps muscle group to decelerate, putting stress on the ACL.
How can you prevent ACL injuries?
One of the biggest things for any injury prevention is to strengthen the muscles around the focus area of your body, in this case the knee. Focusing on quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, can provide better support and stability to the knee. Here are six exercises Renew Physiotherapist (and former D3 Women's Soccer National Champion), Hannah Olds, suggest doing to prevent ACL injury:
- Jumping Lunges
- Butt Kicks
- Banded Lateral Toe Taps
- Standing Lunges
- Wall Sits
Reducing the risk of an ACL injury can be done through various preventive measures. Here are a few other ways to help minimize the risk:
- Improve balance and proprioception.
- Focus on proper landing and cutting techniques.
- Warm-up and stretch before physical activity.