3 Tips to Prevent ACL Injuries

3 Easy Tips for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury Prevention

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL ) injuries…ugh.  Arguably, one of the top three hottest topics in sports medicine (concussion and Tommy John surgery being the other two).  ACL injuries can end a season and sometimes a career.  Many athletes have repeat tears as well.  Lost time, lost opportunities, and sometimes even financial losses abound due to missed scholarships or losing a roster spot.  At SSOR, we see many athletes after ACL reconstructions and we’ve even been featured on local news about the topic.  The sports PT’s at SSOR are experts at the how’s and why’s of ACL tears and what can be done about them.  We could do a blog a day about some aspect of the ACL tear continuum, but we’ll start simple.  Here’s three tips that parents can do today to help prevent ACL tears in their youngsters.

1.  Get on a core and lower extremity strengthening program.  Focused training on the gluteals, core, and hamstrings are critical for prevention of ACL tears. Numerous studies have shown that weaknesses in these areas are a major culprit in ACL tears.  A supervised, structured program by a credentialed professional is important – certified athletic trainer, licensed sports physical therapist, or a qualified personal trainer/strength coach can help give some structure and guidance.
2.  Practice/learn/engage in proper jumping and landing mechanics.  We know that poor jumping and landing technique can lead to ACL tears.  After getting a good strength base as suggested in #1, athletes need to learn how to land, jump, and cut to not only prevent injury, but also enhance performance by ensuring their bodies are in the best position for success.  Again, much like #1, you should have a trained professional teach your child how to execute these movements.

3.  Engage in free play.  Sadly, many kids only play sports in a structured environment – “OK kids, run from A to B, cut at C, then pass to your teammate at D.”  These activities are pre-planned.  Unfortunately, many of the sports that have high ACL tear rates – soccer and basketball – are filled with unexpected, unplanned changes of direction.  Conversely, the ACL tear rate in sports like dancing and figure skating is quite low – namely because of practiced, pre-planned routines.  We know that the unexpected changes that occur during soccer and basketball are a reason for ACL tears.  Therefore, kids should be encouraged to play tag, “kick the can,” or other games where no structure exists.  Let them run/jump/cut as game rules dictate.
The sports PT’s at SSOR consider it a privilege to work with your child on both injury prevention as well as recovery if they unfortunately require surgery.  We hope we can earn your trust and confidence as we have earned the trust of numerous families and surgeons in the Overland Park area as well as the Kansas City metro in general.  Give us a call at (913) 904-1128!  Remember, you don’t need a physician referral to see a PT in Kansas anymore.

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