Friday, October 17, 2014

ACL Injury and Prevention

ACL injuries are common and on the rise. These injuries can cause young athletes to sit on the sidelines for months, lose out on valuable scholarship money and lead to long term osteoarthritis. It is estimated that over 50,000 high school and college age female athletes suffer from ACL injuries each year.[1] While some of these incidents cannot be prevented, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the number of injuries. 

One common misconception about ACL tears is that they are a result of player-to-player contact and little can be done to prevent occurrence. While ACLs are injured/torn in this manner, most occur as a result of the following: 

  • Sudden change in direction
  • Cutting maneuvers coupled with a sudden stop
  • Awkward landing following a jump
  • Pivoting with knee fully extended while foot is planted on the ground

Unfortunately, female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injury. Anatomical differences, such as a greater Q-angle, are primarily to blame. Other factors include weak muscle groups, bad habits, improper form and decreased range of motion. The good news is that while we cannot change the anatomy, we can identify risk factors and help reduce the chance of injury. 

A few suggestions for prevention would include: 

  • Strength training – especially the smaller muscles around the knee and the hamstring 
  •  Jump routine exercises emphasizing proper form and landing
  • Pivoting exercises – also focusing on proper form

These tools are most successful when implemented in early adolescence. By utilizing prevention tools early in life, we can ensure that kids are learning proper form and technique from the beginning. This alleviates the need to undo risky habits in the future. 

Many organizations are implementing pre-season screening programs where professionals can assess athletes and determine if they are high risk for ACL injury. If you have access to one of these programs, take advantage of it and use the prevention tools provided. In future posts, we will also highlight exercises and routines that could be helpful.


Monday, October 6, 2014

What is the ACL?

There are four major ligaments in the knee. The ligaments attach three bones: the thighbone (femur), the shinbone (tibia) and the knee cap (patella). There are 2 groups of ligaments in the knee; the collateral ligaments and the cruciate ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL is one of the cruciate ligaments.

The two collateral ligaments are known as the medial collateral ligament and the lateral collateral ligament. The medial collateral ligaments are on the side of the knee and control sideways motion of the knee. These bands of tissue are intended to protect the knee from extending too far to either side.

The two crutiate ligaments are known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These two bands cross each other to form an “X”. The ACL is in the front and runs diagonally across the middle of the knee. The ACL and PCL keep the knee from moving too far forward or backward.

The ACL is the most commonly injured of all the ligaments in the knee. The ACL is key to providing stability in the knee and minimizing stress within the knee joint. When injured, surgery is typically required to recover from the injury. 

In future articles, we will discuss ACL injuries and injury prevention in greater detail. If you feel you may have injured your ACL it is extremely important to consult an orthopedic surgeon.