The ACL is located at the center of the knee and controls the forward movement of the tibia. Anything compromises this movement can ultimately strain or tear the ACL. This is most frequently seen in landing jumps or when changing directions suddenly. ACL injuries are highly influenced by pelvic positioning. Since women physiologically have wider hips, they often suffer a higher instance of ACL strain and tearing. A female soccer player, for instance, is eight times more likely to suffer an ACL tear than a male player.
There are measures you can take to prevent an ACL tear. The following is a list of the best practices to minimize risk:
- Strength. Strong muscles can help guard against ligament strain. Lift weights two to three times a week, especially concentrating on the hip, thigh and abdomen areas. Strong leg muscles will stabilize the knee while a strong core provides pelvic stability.
- Flexibility. Stretch regularly, especially before and after sports and exercise. Limber muscles perform better and pare less likely to strain. Activities like pilates and yoga are especially effective.
- Conditioning. Often as we grow older we can only play a sport a few times a month. If you are a weekend warrior, be sure to train regularly between games. A conditioned body is less likely to injure. Practice drills and plyometrics that require balance, strength and agility. You can find out more on ACL drills and training recommendations at the Santa Monica ACL Prevention Project.
- Weight. Excess body fat in the abdomen area can place extra strain on the knees. As if you needed another reason to watch your weight!
- Support. If you have experienced an ACL strain in the past, you are especially vulnerable to a future tear. A hinged knee brace or a soft support can provide extra stability during sporting activity.
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