Prevention & Risk Assessment
Tips for Preventing an ACL Knee Ligament Injury
The knee is a joint where 3 main bones join: the femur, or thigh bone; the tibia, or shin bone; and the patella, or knee cap. Several ligaments attach to the femur and tibia and give the joint strength and stability. One of these, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), is in the center of the knee and limits rotation and the forward movement of the tibia.
The ACL is most often stretched or torn by a sudden twisting motion — when, for example, your feet are planted 1 way and your knees are turned another. You can also injure your ACL by quickly changing the direction in which you're moving; by putting the brakes on too quickly when running; or, when landing from a jump. A woman's body structure and hormones cause more force on the ligaments, increasing the likelihood of injury during sports and athletic activities.
Many ACL injuries can be prevented if the muscles that surround the knees are strong and flexible.
Prevention focuses on proper nerve and muscle control of the knee. Exercises aim to increase muscle power, balance, and improve core strength and stability.
The following training tips can reduce the risk of an ACL injury:
- Train and condition year round.
- Practice proper landing technique after jumps. This involves bending your knees to absorb the force and keeping them in line with your feet.
- When you pivot, crouch and bend at the knees and hips. This reduces stress on the ACL.
- Strengthen your hamstring and quadriceps muscles. The hamstring muscle is at the back of the thigh; the quadriceps muscle is at the front. The muscles work together to bend or straighten the leg. Strengthening both muscles can better protect the leg against knee injuries.