How to prevent an ACL injury

Recently, reported in the news, the incidence of junior athlete ACL injuries is becoming more frequent with more reconstructive surgeries being performed on younger teenagers and children.

ACL injuries are a daunting and frightening diagnosis, often one which many people associate as “career ending” but this is not necessarily the case!

With advances in surgical procedures and physiotherapy - these injuries can be managed in a preventative, rehabilitative or post-surgical manner all of which allow the athlete to regain their desired level of performance.

On a daily basis we familiar with the phrase “prevention is better than a cure,” especially in the health industry, and this stands true in the face of ACL injuries.

There is plenty that can be applied to ensure you are placing your healthiest and best knee forward when you are landing from a mark, kicking the scoring shot in soccer, or dodging that goal defence.

Some risk factors for ACL injuries include:

  • Reduced strength of the lower limb

  • Muscle imbalances especially quadriceps and hamstrings

  • Reduced core control

  • Jumping and landing technique - especially with cutting, pivoting and single leg landing

  • Reduced balance

  • Fatigue and overtraining

All the factors mentioned above can be addressed with a simple program aiming to strengthen desired muscles and core control, improve balance, body awareness and landing/cutting technique, together with appropriate muscle release and recovery.

Below is a small but important collection of exercises to help improve strength, dynamic balance and technique.

These are great exercises to be performed as a warm up prior to training or game day as well as something that can be performed on rest days.

Strength

  • Squats with toe raise - quads, glute, hamstrings and calves

  • Walking lunges

  • Side plank

Proprioception/Balance

  • Single leg ball roll 30 s

  • Drinking bird + ball pass

Landing

  • Vertical jumps, 180s, lateral jumps

Agility

  • Ice skaters

  • Zig zag run

  • Side shuffle

  • Forwards and backwards accelerate and decelerate