Health First Orthopedic Surgeon Provides Pointers to Prevent ACL Injuries
Amateur, Professional Athletes Susceptible to Devastating Ligament Tears in Knees
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear can be a devastating knee injury. So much, that it almost ended current Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson's professional career. Peterson tore the ACL and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee on December 24, 2011, and many people wondered if he could ever step foot on a football field gain. Eventually, he fully recovered and did resume his playing career.
However, ACL injuries are not isolated to professional athletes. Recreational athletes or anyone who stays physically active can be impaired by an ACL tear, too.
The chances of an ACL injury are a lot higher in certain sports, according to Dr. E. Schuyler DeJong, an expert in sport injuries, and a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Health First Medical Group. He's also the head team physician for the Florida Institute of Technology Panthers athletic programs.
No matter how an ACL injury occurs, Dr. DeJong provides a few basic facts and tips to help athletes avoid injury and safely get back to competition.
How do ACL injuries happen in athletes?
Most often, ACL injuries are the result of a non-contact pivoting injury. The athlete plants a foot and then tries to change direction suddenly. However, contact can certainly contribute. In many cases, an athlete is pushed off balance or lands awkwardly from a jump after contact. Direct contact can certainly cause knee ligament injury, too.
Who is at risk for an ACL injury?
Athletes participating in sports that involve direction change and contact are more at risk. Agility-type sports are particularly problematic and sudden changes in direction - particularly when moving quickly - can put a great strain on knee ligaments. Contact can make it worse, however, and at times it's an unfortunate circumstance or off-balance landing that can cause an ACL tear.
Why do football, soccer and basketball players have an increased chance?
Sports such as these typically involve fast running and direction changing. The fast pace of these games provides ample opportunity for the type of direction-changing pivot that can lead to ACL injury. Contact can complicate this by either directly causing a ligament injury or indirectly throwing someone off balance, precipitating an injury.
Are women more prone than men to have an ACL injury?
Unfortunately, the ACL injury rate is three times higher in female athletes than male athletes. Several factors cause this increased risk. In general, women tend to have a higher valgus angle to the knee than men (more knock-kneed). The slope of the tibia at the knee tends to be higher in women than men, which can result in more stress on the ACL.
How can an ACL injury be prevented?
There are strategies to minimize chances of an ACL injury. The Santa Monica Sports Medicine Research Foundation has created the PEP program, which stands for Prevent injury and Enhance Performance. This program consists of warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics and sport-specific agility exercises that have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of ACL injury. Staying fit, maintaining flexibility, and playing any sport within your limits is also important to minimizing injury.