The human knee is one of the most complex hinge joints in the body and is responsible for absorbing shock and providing stability when in motion. Whether walking, running, or even standing, the ligaments in your knee are responsible for providing stability. Ligaments are the fibrous bands connecting bone to bone. There are 4 ligaments that connect your femur (upper leg/thigh bone) and tibia (lower leg/shin bone). One of those 4 ligaments is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) which runs diagonally through the knee, from the lateral aspect of the femur to the medial tibia. One of the primary functions of the ACL is to prevent the tibia from translating forward on the femur.
While standing can put strain on the knee, engaging in sports that require change of direction, jumping, and pivoting can put additional strain on the ligaments in your knee, specifically your ACL. When the ACL is injured or torn, the knee lacks inherent stability and may require ACL reconstruction surgery. Each year, approximately 350,000 ACL reconstructions are performed in the United States and roughly one million worldwide¹. Taking preventative action with these 4 tips will help reduce your chances of experiencing an ACL injury:
Performing a proper warm-up regimen before exercising or participating in sporting events can reduce the chance of injury to the ACL, amongst other parts of the body. Properly warming up with dynamic movements will increase blood flow to muscles resulting in improved elasticity, which will reduce the amount of stress put on ligaments and joints throughout the body. Here are a few effective warm-up drills to try before exercising:
While running, jumping, pivoting, and performing activities, our bodies fatigue and musculoskeletal alignment strains, putting stress on our joints. Strengthening the muscles around the hip, knee, and entire lower extremity chain can keep your hip, knee, and ankle in proper alignment, which aids in reducing stress to joints and ultimately, injuries. These exercises should be performed with minimal to no pain. If you do experience pain while performing these exercises, consult a medical professional.
When engaging in multi-directional sports, it is always important to be in an athletic stance. This stance can vary from sport to sport, but it will allow you to quickly accelerate, decelerate, and change directions quickly without adding stress to your knees.
Excessive strain can be placed on the ACL when performing lateral movements, pivoting, or when performing activities such as running, jumping, and landing with improper mechanics. At IMPACT Physical Therapy, our physical therapists are movement specialists who can perform functional movement assessments to identify asymmetries and movement impairments that can contribute to strain/stress on the body and increase risk for injuries. During the screen, a therapist will take you through fundamental movement patterns and sport-specific activities and will assess your body’s mobility, ability to stabilize while moving, mechanics, and symmetry. Once the assessment is complete, the physical therapist will recommend exercises that will assist in improving alignment and body mechanics to improve movement patterns and function.
If a suspected ACL injury occurs, please consult with your physician or physical therapist for proper evaluation and treatment. Whether you decide on a non-surgical or surgical course of treatment, our clinicians at IMPACT Physical Therapy are here to guide you through your ACL rehabilitation. If you are planning your post-surgical rehabilitation, our ACL Rehab and Return to Play Program utilizes a comprehensive protocol created with your sports medicine team. The program focuses on pre- and post-surgery treatments; specifically, improving range of motion, strength, and ultimately getting you back to full function so that you can return to participation. Contact us today to talk to one of our ACL rehab specialists or to schedule a consultation!
Sugimoto D, LeBlanc JC, Wooley SE, Micheli LJ, Kramer DE
J Sport Rehabil. 2016 May; 25(2):190-4.