The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four ligaments in the knee that connect the upper and lower leg bones. Ruptures of the ACL are common in contact sports such as football and soccer. These sports injuries can lead to arthritis and other complications later in life. According to the Arthritis Foundation, research suggests that ACL and other traumatic knee injuries can be reduced by more than 50% by using a preventive training program that combines flexibility, balance, strength, plyometric, agility, and technique training into exercise selection. To help you prevent debilitating ACL injuries and their effects that could last a lifetime, we’ve outlined 4 ways to prevent ACL injuries.
1. Plyometric exercises
Plyometric exercises are high intensity training techniques used to develop athletic power through speed and strength. The targeted muscle group starts in the stretched position and then rapidly contracts with maximum force. The combination of concentric and eccentric muscle contractions increase muscle power. Perfecting form on these exercises is key because without it injury is possible.
Here is a list of plyometric exercises you can incorporate into your routine:
- Squat jumps
- Hopping from one leg to the other or squat jumps on one leg
- Broad jump
- Single leg jump for distance
- Side to side jumps over a cone
These are just a few examples of plyometric exercises, but there are many. As your strength improves, you’ll be able to more repetitions and rounds of these exercises.
2. Practice jump landings
This is in reference to plyometric exercises and anything else you may do that involves jumping. ACL injuries often occur when you cut or come down on your knee the wrong way. It’s when you’re momentum is going one way and your body goes the other way. Therefore, learning the proper landing techniques is imperative. When landing you want to softly accept your weight on the balls of your feet slowly rolling back to the heel with a bent knee and straight hip. You want to make sure you knees don’t sway to the inside when coming down to land.
3. Strengthen quadricep and hamstring muscles
Muscle strength is smart for any person, but especially if you experience joint pain. In relation to ACL injuries, the quadriceps and hamstring muscles are the muscles that support and protect the ACL. If you want to avoid this debilitating injury, or you are recovering from surgery after this injury, you’ll want to focus on building up your quads and hamstrings. Plyometrics and jumping exercises, especially squats, will help tremendously in achieving this.
4. If you’re a coach or an athlete, design a prevention program
There are several existent ACL injury prevention programs out there already. Many high school and college soccer and football coaches have already begun to implement these programs as basic training for their athletes. You can do the same for your exercise routine or for your own athletes if you are a coach. Most of these programs consist of a warm-up, stretching, plyometrics, and sport specific agilities. These are often supplemented with weight training and athletic practices.
ACL injuries can be severe and treatment and recovery can be lengthy. Not only that, but joint injuries can have lasting effects that develop into conditions like arthritis. We can’t stress enough how important it is to take good care of your joints from your teenage years through adulthood. Taking these steps to avoid ACL injuries is just one way to do this. Preventing ACL injuries goes hand in hand with other joint treatment such as natural joint supplements. We recommend taking a comprehensive path to joint health including exercise, diet, and joint supplements.
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