ACL Injury Prevention And Treatment

Sommer Hammoud, MD July 16th, 2015

If you are an athlete who is involved in running, jumping, and pivoting sports, you are probably well aware of the common anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in athletes like you. These injuries may result from a direct blow to the knee which causes excessive angulation of the joint. The vast majority of these injuries are non-contact and occur from maneuvers such as cutting, pivoting, decelerating, changing direction, or landing from a jump.

Because of the frequency of these injuries, and the amount of time they may prevent you from participating in the sports you love, it is important for athletes like you to know about ACL injury prevention and treatment.
The ACL is one of the four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. This tough, rope-like structure performs the important role of providing rotational stability as you run, jump, and pivot. Whether an ACL injury occurs through a contact injury or not, it will likely result in similar symptoms. The patient may hear or feel a popping sensation in the knee as it gives out.  The knee may quickly swell, creating difficulty with range of motion of the knee and ability to put weight on the affected leg.
Top ACL Injury Prevention Tips
Just because ACL injuries are common among athletes does not mean that they are inevitable. The following ACL injury prevention tips can help you to reduce your chance of an ACL injury on the field:
  • Improve Your Conditioning. Taking proper steps toward improving your strength and stability can be effective to help reduce your risk of ACL injuries. Effective training programs often include: aerobic conditioning, plyometric exercises, jump training, strength training, and improving your balance. Risk awareness training also makes an important addition to such a regimen.

  • Strengthen Your Hamstrings. Building strength in the hamstring muscles is an important preventive measure. This is especially true for female athletes as they generally have relatively weaker hamstrings as compared to their quadriceps.

  • Use Proper Techniques. For athletes involved in pivoting and jumping sports (soccer, basketball, football, etc), learning proper cutting and landing techniques is vital. Again, most injuries (80%) are non-contact and occur during movements such as cutting, pivoting, decelerating, changing direction, and landing from a jump. Improper technique during these maneuvers in which the knee collapses inward (knock-kneed) are more likely to result in an ACL injury. Learning proper techniques and focusing on strengthening the hip muscles and core to improve cutting and landing performance is essential.

  • Check Your Gear. For certain sports, such as downhill skiing, ensuring that your gear is adjusted correctly is a final important preventive step to take. Seek out a trained professional who can guide you through the proper adjustment of such gear.

If you are interested in finding more ACL injury prevention tips that are specific to your sport, talk with an athletic trainer or sports medicine physician for assistance.
What To Do If You Experience an ACL Injury
Unfortunately, all of the preventive steps in the world cannot fully eliminate the chance of an ACL injury occurring during sports like basketball, soccer, football, baseball, tennis, or skiing. In such cases, it is important to know ahead of time what steps to take if you or one of your teammates experiences such an injury.
Initial treatment may include ice, compression, and elevation to help relieve pain and swelling. Once the patient is stabilized, it is important to make an appointment with a sports medicine physician for an evaluation as soon as possible. When you do make that appointment, X-rays and MRI scans may be taken in addition to a physical examination in order to determine the extent of the injury and to see if any other damage has occurred in the joint (meniscus and cartilage).
After you receive your diagnosis, your doctor may recommend a couple different treatment options. For more mild cases, or if you are not typically active, non-operative treatment may be sufficient. However, for active athletes and more severe injuries, ACL reconstruction surgery is often recommended.
For more information about these treatment options, or to schedule an appointment with an experienced sports medicine physician, contact Rothman Orthopaedic Institute today at 1.800.321.9999.

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