ACL, 3 little letters, everyone knows them, and everyone knows hearing them as an injury diagnosis can make your heart sink. The injury will ruin a season and require months of rehab. Even after that one can only hope to be back to normal, but with the mental block that often comes with the injury and other physical side effects, normal may have a new definition. ACL injury has an annual incidence of more than 200,000 cases. More ACL injury cases occur in males because there are a greater number of male participants playing sports, but NCAA statistics found that female athletes are 2-8 times more like to suffer an ACL injury playing sports. The most interesting statistic to me is that the majority of ACL tears occur during non-contact situations, such as a player going up for a lay-up on a breakaway with no one around them, landing wrong when coming down from getting a rebound, or simply cutting to catch a bad pass…side note these are all 3 ways that I tore my ACL, not one time did anyone so much as breathe on me!
Is there something that can be done to prevent this problem? If there was a simple routine of exercises that could be done weekly that would lessen the risk of ACL tears, shouldn’t that be a focus? What are 10 extra minutes a day if it will save you surgery and countless hours of rehab? Since most ACL tears occur in non-contact situations proper technique in cutting and jumping situations needs to be a focus, as well as strengthening the muscles around the knee for more stabilization. So, while taking the time in practice to focus on proper cutting technique may not seem like somewhere you want to spend your time…you should! And even better you can make it into a conditioning drill. Work on cuts zig zagging at full speed, planting the outside foot, staying low, keeping the knee over the planting foot, focus on it not collapsing in. Proper jumping technique is also vital. Doing box jumps in the weight room, to get the feel of proper jumping technique while strengthening the stabilizing muscles. Make sure the athlete’s knees don’t collapse in or out as they land, and focus on stability. If their knees are wobbling all over the place when they land, it’s probably not a good indication!
Some strengthening exercises that can be done daily in about 10 minutes are:
- Box Heel Taps
- Balance Cone Reaches
- Bosu Squat
- Bosu Side Lunge
- Band X Walks