HealthONE injury blog series- knee care

HealthONE Blog: ACL injury prevention, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children

PHOTO: "Sprint Start Bursting:" To help prevent an ACL injury, a student athlete can practice bursting into a full speed sprint. This activity helps strengthen the muscles around the ACL.

By John Polousky, MD

Rocky Mountain Youth Sports Institute at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children

Fans of many sports, including soccer, know the anxiety of watching a player go down, grabbing a knee in obvious pain. An injury involving the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, can end an athlete’s season or even a career, and girls are four to six times more likely to suffer this injury. Fortunately, there are some steps athletes can take to aid in ACL injury prevention.

What’s an ACL?

The ACL is the ligament in the middle of the knee which prevents the shinbone from sliding out in front of the thighbone. An ACL injury most commonly occurs are when:

  • an athlete gets hit on the side of the knee
  • the knee joint is overextended
  • the athlete stops quickly and changes direction while running, landing from a jump or turning

Here are some “knee safe” tips:

  • Strong gluteal and hamstring muscles help prevent the risk of ACL injury. Kids can strengthen these important muscles through free play activities such as swinging on the monkey bars, games which involve running or climbing up and down the slide. 
  • Several studies show strength and plyometric (jump) training is effective in ACL injury prevention, decreasing injuries among 14-18 year old girls by 74-83 percent. Many girls tend to land from jumping with their knees moving inward (knock-kneed), and training females to land with straight knees is believed to reduce the rate of injury to the ACL. Successful training programs incorporate jumping up with hands extended over the head (like blocking a basketball shot), dipping the hips down low (like scooping a ground ball in softball), shuffling in lateral motions (the motion to defend an opponent in soccer) or bursting into a full speed sprint.

Lear more about ACL injury prevention by visiting the Rocky Mountain Youth Sports Medicine Institute website.

"Shuffling in Lateral Motion:" Shuffling in lateral motions can prepare the ACL for similar activity in a game helping to keep knees safe and injury-free.