The following tips are from Madonna TherapyPlus ProActive Physical Therapist Chris Mallam, DPT.  His professional interests include orthopedics, sports medicine and aquatic therapy.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, or rupture, is a common injury incurred in both the general population, and to a higher incidence, in athletes.  The ACL is the most commonly torn ligament in the knee, with studies reporting a range of 100,000 to 200,000 such cases in the United States alone per year.  The majority of athletic-related ACL tears happen during non-contact injuries, with a higher incidence in female athletes than males.  Here are several simple steps that can be taken to help decrease the risk of an ACL injury in athletes:

1. Warm up prior to exercise, practice, or competition

Stretching of the hips, knees, and ankles, as well as short bouts of cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, will help muscles and joints respond better to game action, thereby decreasing the stress on ligamentous structures such as the ACL.

2. Strengthening of the hip musculature

The hip abductor, external rotator, and gluteal muscles (on the outside and back of the hip) are critical to maintaining good form and lower extremity alignment during dynamic activity.  Weakness of these muscles can lead to a higher risk of ACL injury or rupture.

3. Practicing good body mechanics during dynamic activities

Activities like jumping and landing – this includes making sure to land softly with bent knees that stay in line with your feet/toes, NOT caving inward toward each other (good hip strength will help this), head/chest up, buttocks back, and a general soft landing.

4. Plyometric training

Hopping and jumping training outside of formal competition, with an emphasis on good form, can help train your body to recognize these movement patterns and complete them with less risk of injury during competition.

While there is no way to guarantee that an ACL injury will not occur during athletic competition, these simple steps can help to dramatically decrease the risk of such injury.

Madonna TherapyPlus, with three locations in Lincoln and one in Omaha, provides physical therapy and other services to help individuals recovering from knee injuries or surgery. For more information, click here.

This article is provided for education purposes. Check with your health care provider before starting any new exercise programs.