Tearing away the myths over ACL injury prevention
By Joe Black | (email@example.com)
I’ve been doing this stuff for over 35 years, and it still hurts. And it wasn’t even my team.
Last Saturday night I was covering Alcoa High School’s basketball game at Elizabethton for AHS Head Athletic Trainer Peggy Bratt, who was in Indiana for her mother’s surgery.
Thirty-eight (38) seconds into the game, Kayla Newman went down with a knee injury that may prove to be a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). At press time, the family was awaiting the results of diagnostic testing.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve travelled down this path with a young athlete, but it’s too many. There are over 200,000 ACL injuries in this country every year, with over half of those requiring surgery. Most of those occur while playing agility sports like football, basketball, and soccer.
About 30 percent of those involve contact while the rest are non-contact injuries.
A female is eight times more likely to suffer a torn ACL than a male. Indeed, it appears to be the female athlete injury of greatest consequence.
Many factors contribute to this and I’ve addressed those in this space many times over theyears. Wider pelvis. The increased joint laxity/flexibility found in most females. Lack of muscular development. The fact that young boys generally start sports years before young girls.
But I want to make one thing crystal clear today: There are simple measures that you can take that will help prevent ACL injuries.
First, look at your foot. Are you flat footed? Do you have a “pronated” foot? (If you don’t know the answer to that one, you might ask a physical therapist or podiatrist.) If so, your risk for ACL injury is increased. You need arch supports. Not everyone needs custom orthotics. Over-the-counter arch supports should do well and will, at least, help in your quest to reduce your risk for an ACL injury.
How do you land from a jump? Upon landing, are your knees together? If so, you are at risk.
Do this: stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your knees should be aligned with your feet and shoulders. In other words, a line from your shoulder to your foot should go down the middle of your knee.
Now jump down from a stool. Upon landing, are your knees in that same position? If so, you should be OK. If not, there could be a problem. It is amazing how many girls fail this simple test.
You need to learn how to land from a jump. You have to practice proper jumping technique. That’s where an athletic trainer might help.
Finally, you need to increase the strength of the muscles that externally rotate the hip. That one’s pretty hard to explain but a personal trainer or coach should be able to help you with that.
That’s it. If we could get every female athlete in every middle school to do those three things, we would see a huge decrease in the incidence of ACL tears.
We will never complete eliminate ACL injuries but if we save one athlete from this devastating injury, the effort will have been worth it. Especially if that one athlete is you.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (firstname.lastname@example.org)