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Learning how to prevent ACL tears can minimize knee injury risk, and allow patients to avoid interventions like rehab and surgery. However, having an understanding of the underlying issues is necessary, if you don’t want to be one of the 300,000 ACL reconstruction surgeries performed each year. Keep reading to learn about a range of different ACL tear prevention strategies.
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is the most commonly injured ligament in the knee. It provides stability to the knee for everyday use by connecting the thigh bone and shin bone to prevent excessive forward shearing motion. Several factors play a role in this injury that happens so frequently.
There are several risk factors that are more likely to lead to an ACL tear. These include:
Applying tape to the knee can help provide proprioceptive training. This will increase awareness of any biomechanical imbalances you might have that increase the risk of injury. (Keep in mind that tape should not be used solely for support.) Kinesio taping is the preferred option for the knee to provide feedback and improved coordination with the least amount of joint range restriction. While there are ways to use athletic tape, this is much less common due to the amount of hair on the legs and the amount of restriction it provides due to the inelastic qualities of the tape.
This is done with three strips of the pre-cut tape: one piece to go across the knee just under the kneecap, and two that will start parallel with the thigh and criss-cross each other just below the kneecap.
Keep these in mind to maximize the efficacy and comfort when using Kinesio tape.
Knee braces are usually recommended to prevent reinjury when there is a chronic lingering dysfunction in the knee joint following recovery from a past knee injury (such as a torn meniscus, ACL tear, or muscle strain). If needed, a medium to lightweight flexible knee brace is best for injury prevention. Occasionally, a brace will be recommended for pure prevention purposes if there are enough risk factors to cause concern.
Talk to your orthopedic doctor or physical therapist if you have concerns about your knee that could possibly be addressed with the use of a knee brace.
Focusing on good mechanics and lower body balance is the optimal prevention strategy for knee injuries. Keep these exercise tips in mind.
Also known as jump training, this is a great way to prepare the knee for high-level activities associated with your sports or exercise program. A very clear risk factor for sustaining a knee injury is having excessive knee valgus (the knee collapsing inward) when landing from jumping. This move can be trained to with attention to form, coordination, and lower leg strengthening. Typically, an initial movement assessment by a physical therapist or athletic trainer can help identify any weak points and get you on track with an injury prevention program.
The body moves with better coordination and agility after a period of warming up. It gets the mind ready for a higher level of activity and increases blood flow to prepare the muscles and joints. Thus, decreasing your overall risk of injury. For high-level activities, prepare the body with modified moves that mimic them (i.e. jumping and lunging prior to a game of basketball). Stretching before exercise is only necessary if you have stiff and/or sore muscles or joints.
If you participate in a particular sport, you can usually find great resources for injury prevention exercises. A well-researched sport-specific program is the FIFA 11+ warm-up for soccer players.
A well-balanced strengthening program can help optimize movement mechanics. A good strength program for injury prevention should focus on the core, hips, and thighs. These can be adapted to be movements that are specific for your daily activities or sports to maximize the benefits.
The body’s ability to adjust to outer stimulus, no matter how high or low the impact, is one of the main determining factors in sustaining an injury. If it cannot adjust and coordinate what you're doing, it is a recipe for disaster.
Start challenging yourself with basic standing balance exercises, such as single-leg standing on various surfaces. Make it more difficult by adding coordinated movements, multi-tasking (such as throwing a ball), and more. To make sure you’re keeping good alignment, you may use a mirror or ask someone to give you feedback on your form. If you’re not sure what you should do, this is another great reason to try physical therapy.
Research shows that women are at higher risk for ACL tears, especially athletes. Thus, females need to place extra attention to their injury prevention techniques. Keep these tips in mind:
The risk of an ACL tear is an unfortunate reality of high-level movements, particularly with sports. Be extra cautious with sudden changes in position, planting the foot, or quick stopping. Injury prevention for any joint is about having self-awareness of form and how to sustain good mechanics. No matter how high or low your risk of knee injury is, a proper strength, stretching, and warm-up program will optimize your athletic performance.
If you experience sharp or severe knee pain, swelling, decreased strength, numbness, tingling, hear a pop, or cannot bear weight through the knee, seek medical advice immediately.
Sources:SHOP ACL PRODUCTS