When it comes to sports injuries, ACL tears are among the most common. Yet, they can also happen off the field or court. ACL injuries are not simple injuries that can be fixed with an ice pack, they sometimes require surgery, which is why they shouldn’t be ignored. Here’s an in-depth look at ACL injuries and how to prevent an ACL injury.
What is an ACL injury?
An ACL injury is when there’s a tear or a sprain in your ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament. Your ACL is located in the middle of your knee and keeps your shin and thigh bone properly aligned. Sports that involve nearly instantaneous changes in direction and jumping is where these injuries are common. Examples of these sports would be soccer, basketball, football, downhill skiing, figure skating, gymnastics, lacrosse and many more. Young athletes are the most likely to suffer from this kind of injury. Research shows that women are more likely to suffer from ACL injuries than men. A recent study showed that female basketball players suffered ACL injuries 3.5 times more than males and 2.8 times in soccer.
How do I know if I have an ACL injury?
Some common symptoms of an ACL injury include a loud popping sensation in the knee, severe pain, rapid swelling, decreased range of motion and unable to put weight on the knee without it wanting to collapse. If you suffer from any of these symptoms its best to call your doctor right away. Knee joints have numerous bones, ligaments, tendons at the joint site making it essential to see a doctor right away to diagnose what is wrong and start treatment. Your doctor will use an x-ray to see if there are any broken bones, but an MRI will show how soft tissues like your ligaments and tendons and how they are faring.
How can you prevent injuring your ACL?
The best way to reduce your risk of an ACL injury is to strengthen your body and pay attention to alignment while working out. Exercises that focus on your leg muscles, especially your hamstrings, ensure that your leg muscles are well equipped for high-rigorous sports. Exercises that strengthen your core are also beneficial. Some typical exercises that strengthen these muscle groups include squats, lunges and planks.
If you participate in a sport that where quick movements are necessary, preventing an ACL injury is still possible. During practices focus on form and proper technique. Making sure your knee is positioned correctly on jumps and landings is essential. In sports that require pivoting and cutting motions, be cognizant of where your body weight is distributed and make sure that you are taking proper precautions for your bone and joint health. Depending on the equipment you use in your sport, also make sure that it fits you and is adjusted properly each practice.
What treatment is required or an ACL injury?
ACL injuries vary on their severity and so does their recovery and treatment. If a severe ACL injury occurs, surgery may be required. In most cases, doctors recommend athletes to rest, ice, compress and elevate their knee to reduce pain and help prevent swelling. Physical therapy might also be part of your healing routine. Again, your doctor will determine how severe your ACL injury is and prescribe you with the proper treatment.