Preventing ACL Injuries - Topic Overview
A lot of the research on preventing
anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries has focused
on women: women athletes injure their ACLs up to 8 times as often as men
athletes.1 Although the following tips come from
women's programs, they can help anyone prevent ACL injuries.
- Training and conditioning should take place
year-round. Strength and stretching exercises in the off season will help
coordination and balance when the season starts.
- Always warm up
before training or competition, such as jogging easily or riding a stationary
bicycle for 5 to 10 minutes. Warming up your muscles reduces the risk of
stretching part of your warm-up before the activity
and your cool-down after the activity. Stretching can help you keep and improve
your range of motion and reduce stiffness in your joints. It may also reduce
soreness after exercising and reduce the risk of injury.
landing skills. This is especially important for women, because they don't
usually bend their knees as much as men do when landing from a jump. Not
bending the knees enough exposes them to more pressure and increases the risk
for an ACL injury. When landing after jumping:
- Land with the knees bent. As the knees bend
during landing, make sure they travel in a straight path. Do not let them move
- Land softly on the balls of the feet and roll
back onto the heels.
- Keep your knees and hips aligned and your
upper body upright. Don't bend too far forward or backward as you land.
- Try not to land on one foot. If this is not possible, bring the
other foot down as soon as possible to distribute weight evenly.
- Improve agility. Women tend to turn and pivot in a
more erect position than men, which strains the ACL. Learning to crouch and
bend at the knees and hips when turning may reduce the stress on the ACL.
Agility exercises include running forward and backward and running in diagonals
(run diagonally to one spot, then cut the other way and run to
- Work on muscle strength. The muscles in the back
(hamstrings) and front (quadriceps) of the thighs work together to bend or
straighten the leg. Women tend to use their quadriceps when changing direction
rapidly. This can result in an ACL injury. Stretching and strengthening the
quadriceps and hamstrings can help reduce the risk.