Thursday, June 30, 2016

TLC for the ACL

by Amy Goldstein, PT
No matter what sport you follow, there's a good chance you've heard of athletes suffering from an ACL tear. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a knee ligament that attaches the front top portion of the shin bone (tibia) to the back bottom portion of the thigh bone (femur). One of four ligaments in the knee, the ACL prevents the tibia from sliding forward and medially from the femur. ACL tears are one of the most common knee injuries, with over 100,000 occurring annually in the US.

While it may not be surprising that contact sports such as football and soccer are a common source of ACL injuries, it is possible to tear the ACL without any direct contact at all. Changing direction rapidly, stopping suddenly, landing from a jump incorrectly or landing with a hyperextended knee can also cause injury to the ACL. Females are 3.5 times more likely to tear their ACL than males, and ACL injuries are most prevalent among 15-19 year-olds.

So what can be done to prevent injury? Evidence has suggested that strengthening the muscles of the leg and core, as well as working on neuromuscular control and balance of the leg, can help prevent a tear of the ACL. Strengthening the hamstrings, gluteal muscles and external hip rotators can help to prevent the inward collapse that occurs during an ACL injury, while working on neuromuscular control and balance helps to improve the timing of the muscles in the leg. Athletes can also work on jumping mechanics to improve landing form and to prevent excess strain on the ACL. Typically, a strengthening program of 3 times a week for at least 6 weeks is required to notice a change.

Amy can be reached at