By Amanda Noll, PT, DPT, CSCS
One of the most common injuries we hear about in sports is often a diagnosis that athletes, parents, and coaches dread hearing: the ACL tear. This is because ACL tears are typically season-ending, especially with the most current research advocating for longer recovery times as it has been shown that the ACL repair may not be fully healed for 1-2 years after surgery. But before we get too far into recovery and prevention, we need to answer the question, “What is an ACL tear and why is the ACL so important?” ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament and is one of the main stabilizing ligaments in the knee. It prevents the tibia (shin bone) from coming too far forward from the femur (thigh bone), keeping the knee stable and allowing you to run, cut, and jump without your knee “giving out.”
So, how do we prevent ACL tears? The best way to prevent an ACL tear is to increase and maintain good strength throughout your core and legs, especially in the hips. Along with maintaining good strength, it is extremely important to have good jumping and landing mechanics. Many times, improper landing technique puts the knee in a very vulnerable position, increasing your risk for a tear. This is especially prominent in teenage girls. So learning and practicing proper jumping and landing will help decrease your risk. Another great way to decrease your risk of an ACL tear is to play multiple sports a year and not specialize in one sport before the age of 18. Playing multiple sports allows your body to learn to move and react to different stimuli and therefore your body will become stronger and more equipped to handle the demands of different sports, as well as preventing overuse injuries, which furthers your risk for ACL tears.
However, even the best and strongest athletes will get ACL tears despite how well they train. Sometimes, these injuries are inevitable, especially with contact sports where movements can be unpredictable. So, if you do end up suffering an ACL tear, know that recovery to the point where you are as good (or better) than before is very possible with the right physical therapy. A well trained Physical Therapist will guide you through each step of the 9-12 month recovery period and help you get back in the game, just as good or better than before.
If you happen to suffer and ACL tear or want to get set up with an ACL tear prevention strengthening program, know that you will be in good hands at any of our Advanced Physical Therapy locations. Give us a call today!