Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury Prevention

This is a sponsored post from CSC sponsor Bluegrass Orthopaedics and Hand Care.


The Problem: More than 200,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are estimated to occur in the US annually. Approximately 70% of sports related serious knee injuries occur during non-contact situations such as landing from a jump or changing directions quickly. This gives us a unique opportunity to prevent these injuries. Unfortunately, ACL injuries occur 4-10 times more frequently in female athletes than in male athletes. Frequently, other knee structures (meniscus, joint cartilage) are injured during an ACL injury. Even though, ACL repair surgery is very successful, these other injuries can lead to early onset of joint arthritis and can lead to recurrent knee problems down the road for young athletes. Therefore, all efforts should be made to prevent ACL injuries from occurring.

The Cause: It is currently thought that non-contact ACL injuries are a result of the body’s inability to control itself during landing and making quick directional changes. This “malfunction” of the neuromuscular system results in an overload to the ACL and a tear of the ligament. Below you can see two different pictures showing the landing mechanics of a young athlete. The pre-training picture shows inadequate hip muscle control resulting in a landing position that can easily progress to an ACL injury. The post training picture shows a much improved landing position (due to improvement in hip muscle strength and control) associated with a decreased statistical occurrence of ACL injury.
The Solution: There are many injury prevention programs that have been shown to reduce the injury rate, specifically ACL tears, of young athletes. A proper warm up of at least 15 minutes prior to participating in practice or games is recommended. Emphasis on preparing the muscles for the movements associated with the activity or sport is necessary to minimize the risk of potential injury. SportsMetrics is one of those programs. SportsMetrics was designed by the University of Cincinnati and is one of the original programs specifically designed to reduce ACL injuries in female athletes. It was designed to ensure athletes have the muscle length, strength, and neuromuscular control required to perform the high speed/force activities required by competitive sport. The program begins with warm up and strengthening exercises and progresses to plyometric (jumping and landing) exercises that simulate high risk sport specific activities that commonly lead to ACL injuries. By training the neuromuscular system at this high level, injury rates are minimized. Even though the program was intended to minimize injury rates, it has also demonstrate improved performance such as an increase in vertical jump (1 1⁄2 inch gain), 38% decrease in 40 yard dash, and a 9% decrease in shuttle run time, pre vs. post training tests parameters.

If you are interested in participating in an ACL injury prevention program let your coach know or the Physical Therapy Department at Bluegrass Orthopaedics and Hand Care (859-422-4555) for more information. Further information can also be found on the Bluegrass Orthopaedic website, under the Physical Therapy section.




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