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Identify If You At Risk for an ACL Injury
Every athlete knows someone who has suffered a serious knee injury while playing sports. ACL injuries prevent athletes from playing their sport for up to 1 year, and recovery costs from an ACL injury are estimated to be between $15,000 and $25,000. As an athlete, parent, or coach, you need to determine if you, your child, or your team are at risk for a serious knee injury. Finally, we’ve determined 10 ways to find out if you’re at higher risk for knee injury.
1. Man or Woman? Studies have determined that women experience knee injury at a 4-6 times higher rate than men in similar cutting sports.
2. How old are you? Research has determined that girls in early to late puberty are at greater risk of injury because they show decreased neuromuscular control of the knee when landing from a jumping motion. (Hewett et al. JB&JS, 2004)
3. What sport do you practice? Basketball and football athletes experience the highest rate of serious knee injuries. Girls playing these sports have the highest injury rates.
4. Does your sport require a jump? A recent study estimated that 70% of all ACL injuries occur when landing from a jump. (Boden et al. Orthopedics, 2000)
5. Do your knees collapse when you land from a jump or when you cut? Excessive knee valgus (knees that come together) can be a cause of ACL injury.
6. Do you have a dominant leg that you use with your sport? Research has determined that the dominant leg has a more valgus knee (inward cavities) when landing from a jump. (Ford et al. ACSM, 2003)
7. Are your hamstrings weak? The hamstrings act as a dynamic brake on ACL injuries. Most athletes display significant overdevelopment of the quadriceps compared to the hamstrings.
8. Are your other joints loose? Hypermobility in your other joints can be a precursor to an ACL injury. Check the mobility of your knee, elbow and little finger.
9. Can you balance on one leg? If you have to touch the ground with the other foot or if your knee sinks, you are at greater risk of ACL injury. ACL injuries often occur when landing on a leg or cutting a leg. The athlete must dynamically stabilize the knee to prepare for an injury-free season.
10. Can you land a jump smoothly? If you land a jump from a 12 to 18 inch box with a thump, you have a hard time decreasing the landing forces, increasing your risk of ACL injury.
If you fall into any of the above risk factors, you should begin an ACL injury prevention program immediately. Injury prevention programs have been shown to reduce many of the risk factors listed above. The program should emphasize strengthening/stabilizing exercises, plyometric exercises, and agility training.
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