Your ACL — or anterior cruciate ligament — is a major ligament that provides stability in your knee. Unfortunately, this important role also means that an injury can have devastating effects on athletes.
Approximately 200,000 people experience a torn ACL each year. Most of these injuries occur during sports with a lot of lunging, jumping, and pivoting, like soccer, tennis, and basketball. They're also especially common in young athletes and women, who are three to six times more likely to experience a tear than men.
While ACL tears can be complicated, Dr. Jared Tadje specializes in ACL reconstruction and sports medicine at Tadje Orthopaedics in Meridian, Idaho. He shared these guidelines to help protect your ACL.
Don’t skip your warm-up
It’s easy to skimp on the warm-up, but getting your blood moving to your muscles and joints can help avoid injury. Take it one step further by adding stretches that focus on your hips, thighs, and calves.
Taking the time to warm up ensures your blood is circulating, and you're flexible enough to maintain proper form while playing.
Pay attention to position
An estimated 70% of ACL tears are non-contact injuries and often occur when landing wrong after jumping. Fortunately, practicing proper jumping techniques can help you avoid this pitfall.
When landing a jump, Dr. Tadje recommends:
- Bending your knees and keeping them shoulder-width apart
- Distributing your weight evenly on both feet
- Aligning your body with your feet and your knees over your toes
All of these strategies can help keep your body properly aligned to protect your knees.
Make time for strength training
If you want to avoid a knee injury, you have to have good strength in your hips and thighs. These muscles help support your knees, so strong, balanced muscles are key to avoiding an ACL injury.
Dr. Tadje suggests adding on squats, lunges, and core strengthening exercises to build strong support for your knees, improve your form, and make you a more powerful athlete. These exercises are especially important for women who often have stronger quadriceps than hamstrings, which can create imbalance and cause an overextended ACL.
No one likes sitting on the sidelines. But performing while fatigued is a surefire way to injure your ACL.
It's only human: the more tired you are, the more likely you are to use sloppy technique and poor body mechanics, increasing your chances of injury. Instead, make sure you take rest days, alternate hard workouts with easy ones, and get enough sleep each night.
Taking these steps will keep you in peak condition and injury-free.
For more tips on avoiding an ACL tear or other sports injury, contact Tadje Orthopaedics by calling 208-231-7851 or booking an appointment online today.