By Dr. Dustin C. Dyer
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a key ligament for knee stability. It is found in the central portion of the knee and runs from its origin on the femur (thigh bone) to its insertion on the tibia (shin bone).
ACL injuries are commonly seen in sports, and are more commonly seen in female athletes. There are different factors that make females more susceptible to ACL injuries. They have more laxity of their ligaments and a smaller diameter ACL. The female body is built with a wider pelvis, which typically leads to a more knock-knee positioning. This positioning places the knee at higher risk for an ACL injury.
In particular, women basketball and soccer players often suffer ACL tears due to the nature of their sport. The repetitive jumping and pivoting in their sport, along with the above mentioned factors, increases the risk of an ACL injury.
What is an ACL Injury?
An ACL injury happens when the ligament is overstretched, which leads to a sprained or torn ACL. In most cases, an ACL injury occurs from a non-contact mechanism, meaning it occurs when twisting/pivoting or coming down from a jump. Symptoms include pain, swelling of the knee, and instability. An ACL injury is treated with physical therapy and often surgery to repair or reconstruct the ligament.
4 ACL Injury Prevention Tips
ACL injuries tend to occur among athletes and people with active, competitive lifestyles. Here are a few simple precautions you can take to reduce your risk of injury.
- Stretching. Doing stretches and warm-ups before any athletic competition or activity is one of the most important things you can do to prevent injury. Stretching helps make sure your body is ready for the movements and stresses that are specific to your activity. Do some jogging and warm up your core and lower extremities. Stretch the leg muscles, specifically the hamstrings and quads to ensure you are properly prepared.
- Go Slow. If you’re at the beginning of a competitive season, or trying something for first time, this is when you’re most susceptible to fatigue and injury. Take it easy and don’t jump right into full competition. Working through practice drills and basic mechanics before engaging with a full regimen can dramatically decrease the likelihood of injury.
- Jump Training Regimen. Many college and higher-level sports teams (particularly women’s basketball) have started implementing jump training in their preseason before competition. The athletes work with trainers, coaches, and/or local physical therapists to teach appropriate jumping and landing mechanics. This could be of benefit to anyone planning to engage in jumping sports such as basketball.
- Core Strengthening and Endurance Training. The more core strength you have, the better body control you have. Many sports are now stressing core strengthening to help prevent both upper and lower extremity injuries. Endurance training with a coach or trainer decreases your chance of being fatigued, which in turn decreases your chance of putting your body in a susceptible position for injury.
If You Do Suffer an ACL Injury
If you have an ACL injury, here are some recommendations for addressing it:
- Keep an eye on the knee itself. A large majority of ACL tears will cause significant swelling in the knee.
- Apply ice and elevation. Walking on a torn ACL will not necessarily hurt the knee, but it can increase swelling.
- The best thing to do is call to your orthopedic surgeon or primary care doctor who can refer you to an orthopedist.
- Your physician will likely take an X-ray to ensure there is no fracture, followed by a physical exam.
- Depending on the severity of the injury, an MRI may be necessary to show any possible injuries to the soft tissue and ligaments of the knee.
If you think you may have an ACL injury, or simply want more information on these types of injuries, get in touch with Tuckahoe Orthopaedics to make an appointment today.