It may be the most feared and common injury in sports - the ACL tear. This injury appears in most sporting environments and it is most prominent in volleyball, soccer and basketball.
The ACL injury can occur through two types of situations; the contact injury, where another player or object obstructs the natural motion of your lower leg causing the knee ligament to tear, or the non-contact injury where you land on your leg from a jump or turn and pivot and the ACL tears.
The contact injury ACL tear is primarily a case of bad luck and it is difficult to prepare for and prevent (I have had two of them). However, the non-contact ACL injuries can be dramatically reduced if you take a few precautions.
Learn how to Stack Your Limbs
This might be something athletes never really take the time to think about but you have to do a little training about where your body should be when you move. The most important aspect is proper alignment or stacking your limbs.
You want to line up your foot with your knee, knee with your hip etc. Standing around in this stacked position might not seem like a big deal, however when you run, change directions, jump or land, you don’t want any deliberate twisting or caving of the knees inward. If this happens too many times, your body cannot support the stress and chances of ACL damage increases dramatically.
Mobilize your Joints
Having the appropriate amount of mobility for your sport is essential for athletes so they can perform at the highest and safest level possible. In my opinion, most athletes’ hip and ankles are very tight and mobilizing them to get more range of motion not only makes them run faster, jump higher etc., but the risk of an ACL injury decreases.
If you do not have enough mobility in those areas the joint will only move as far as it can then the absorbed energy is displaced through other areas of the body. In the case of the ACL, if the ankle or hip is sub-optimally mobilized, the force of the impact can dissipate through the knee joint at a higher degree and cause sheering or rotational torque which the ACL is not able to handle. This can lead to an injury of the ligament.
Build Some Strength
Along with good mobility, being strong through your joint’s range of motion is essential to properly absorb and transmit force, which reduces the stress on a particular joint. If this stress is not managed properly, over time, it may lead to an ACL injury.
As you progress to a higher level simply running or playing your sport is not enough to keep your body strong and injury free. When you run, jump or collide with another player your body absorbs a high level of force beyond the weight of your body weight so you should overload the body using weight training to build strength to deal with these situations in your sport.
Movements like squats and deadlifts build essential leg strength while step ups and lunges help balance the strength between legs in an attempt to make them equally strong and stable.
For further explanation about the tips mentioned above check out the video above.
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Doug Fioranelli is the owner of Rise Above Performance Training™ (est. 2008) where he uses personal, progressive programming to increase his athletes’ performance and reduce their risk for injury.
He has over 13 years of experience in strength training, conditioning and athletic rehabilitation. He has coached many adult clients and athletes from middle school to Olympic and Professional level.
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