ACL Injury and Prevention, Part 2

18
Sep
0

Injury Prevention

While I researched prevention on the Internet, I found hundreds of sites filled with detailed descriptions of the reconstruction surgery, I found very little on preventative training. Most of what I did find consisted of detailed explanations of how to fall when skiing or the advice to avoid injury-causing situations.

While these bits of wisdom have validity, I rarely plan my ski crashes in advance. Nor do I wish to take up crochet as a hobby. What I wanted were a series of exercises or drills that would allow my legs to take the punishment that I want to inflict upon them. Upon further research, I found some sage advice.

The reality of ACL injury prevention is to follow the simple advice that I mocked just moments ago. Avoid injury-causing situations. This does not mean to avoid the high-risk sports, but to train your body to react differently while playing. This training involves two basic aspects: plyometric exercises and hamstring development.

Plyometric exercises train the knee to land and plant properly. An excellent source of these exercises is the Richard Stockton College Athletic Training web site.The site also does an excellent job at explaining the concept:

It’s All About The Landing: While the jumping aspect of the plyo’s is important for conditioning, it’s the landing of each jump that is important in the theoretical prevention of ACL injuries. Technique on landing is crucial. A few key concepts: Land Softly! Land Quietly! Use your knees and hips as shock absorbers or bend your knees and hips when you land. Land on your toes. Your shoulders should be over knees when you land. During the plyo’s, you should constantly remind yourself to land softly. Another key concept for ACL injury prevention: bend your knee in everything you do… turning, landing, stopping, cutting, slowing down, etc.

Most cutting injuries occur when athletes try to stop and turn with one planting motion. By concentrating on rounded turns with the knees bent, you can greatly reduce your risk of injury. With practice, this type of turn can be accomplished with little or no reduction to your competitiveness.

The second preventive measure is strength training, particularly of the hamstrings. There are debates as to the effectiveness of Open Kinetic Chain Exercises (non-weight bearing exercises such as most hamstring machines at your gym) versus Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises (such as squats or lunges), but all agree that hamstring strength development reduces ACL injury risk significantly.

Conclusions

I can say, without a doubt, that you do not want to tear your ACL. Trust me. While I engaged in many of the exercises following my first surgery, I largely quit worrying about my knee once I completed my recovery.

I now realize that there is no such thing as a full recovery and I will always be susceptible to re-injury. As I have made the difficult choice to give up soccer, but refuse to give up all sports, the exercises I have introduced here will become a staple of my post-surgery life. I recommend they become a part of yours too.

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