ACL Knee Ligament Injury Prevention
ACL injury prevention is an important issue for everyone, but especially for athletes. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament is the primary connective tissue that connects the bones of the knee. The ACL connects the tibia and femur. There are three other ligaments involved in normal knee function, but the majority of knee injuries occur to the ACL. In ordinary use, the anterior cruciate prevents excessive rotation of the knee and reduces stress across the joint. Along with the posterior cruciate ligament, or PCL, the backward and forward movement of a person’s knee. In addition, the ACL facilitates tibia movement, limiting forward action.
The most common ACL injuries result from athletic activity and women athletes are three times as likely to incur ACL problems than men. In sports that require pivoting and other abrupt changes in direction, the ligament can be overstretched or torn. After an injury, the knee area is often swollen and painful. In some cases an audible pop can be heard at the time of injury. The most frequent cause of ACL overstretching or tears is hyperextension of the knee which happens when the joint is straightened past the normal straight position by ten degrees or more. This generally happens when a person lands from a jump with the knee fully extended. The pressure from the impact induces stretching or tearing of the ligament. Also, the injury can be caused by pivoting where one foot is firmly planted on the ground while the rest of the body rotates in one direction. Apart from athletic injuries, ACL tears can occur during trauma to the knee in situations such as a motor vehicle accident.
Athletes that are at higher risks for ACL injuries need to perform training drills that reduce the chances of encountering this specific type of problem and needing knee ACL surgery. A training program for ACL injury prevention was developed by the Santa Monica ACL Prevention Project in response to the many female soccer players who developed ACL issues. The program combines agility, balance, and performance drills into five stages. The stages are as follows: warm up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics, agility drills, and finishing with a cool down period.
For minor injuries, knee ACL surgery may not be needed. Immediately following the injury, the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) should be utilized to reduce ACL recovery time. If this method does not alleviate the pain and swelling, then a local physician should be consulted to determine the best ACL recovery procedure. The doctor may recommend use of rehabilitation kneebraces such as a straight immobilizer or hinged brace to lower the impact associated with normal activities such as walking. If this ACL recovery remedy is not effective, the doctor may determine that ACL surgery is the best option. With the process of knee ACL surgery, a patient’s ACL will be entirely reconstructed. The most effective forms of surgery utilize tendons from other parts of the body as material for the reconstruction. This surgery should aid in further ACL injury prevention.