Anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injuries are one of the most common injuries among athletes. An ACL tear can sideline you for an entire season and even lead to osteoarthritis if not treated properly. The following examines how you can keep from being sidelined by a painful ACL injury.
What Causes an ACL Tear or Injury?
This type of injury is most often seen in individuals who play sports involving sudden stops, turns, twisting, or jumping. These movements can strain or even tear the ligaments responsible for stabilising the knee.
Ligament injuries are classified according to the amount of damage to the ligament:
• Grade I Sprain—The ligament is intact but stretched. You may experience swelling and tenderness, but the knee still feels stable.
• Grade II Sprain—Some of the ligament fibres are partially torn. There is moderate tenderness and swelling. The knee may give out or feel unstable during activity.
• Grade III Sprain—The fibres of the ligament are completely torn or ruptured.
Treatment for knee ligament injuries depends on the severity of the sprain. A Grade I sprain may require short-term immobilisation and physical therapy. A complete tear may require surgery.
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries tend to be more common among females than males. This may be because girls often perform pivoting, cutting, and landing manoeuvres differently than their male counterparts. Females frequently perform these manoeuvres from a knock-kneed position that puts extra strain on the ligaments. Many girls have less range of motion in the hips and knees and less hamstring strength, which can make them susceptible to injury.
The key to preventing ACL injuries is to focus on strength, flexibility, balance, and agility. Practising the following guidelines can help you stay injury free:
- Always warm up and stretch before exercising. This will get blood flowing to your muscles and increase flexibility. Pay close attention to the hips, thighs, and calves.
- Exercises such as squats and lunges can strengthen the muscles in the leg and improve stability.
- Look for exercises that require you to balance on one foot. Most knee ligament injuries occur when the knee collapses inward instead of staying in alignment with the hip and ankle.
- Perform drills that force you to move side to side, diagonally, and front to back. Start off slow and make sure that you place your foot firmly and keep your hips, knees, and ankles in alignment.
- Practise proper jumping technique. Make sure you land with your knees slightly bent and facing straight ahead. You should never land knock-kneed. Finally, you should make sure you get plenty of rest before any strenuous physical activity. Your technique is more likely to suffer if you are tired, making you more prone to injury.