The start of a new season for sports usually brings an increase in youngsters with knee injuries that we treat in our sports medicine clinic. Many of them suffer from the anterior ligament of the cruciate (ACL) tears which require surgery. Their parents often question, “Why did this happen to my child? “
Specific ACL injuries are a sign of bad luck, for instance, two players’ collisions during a game. However, sports medicine specialists have identified various aspects that can increase the chance of an ACL injury. Certain factors can be managed while others are not. They can be classified into risk factors for individuals and environmental variables.
Individual risk factors
Risk factors that can be considered as an individual that could lead to an ACL injury are:
ACL tears tend to be more prevalent in women than in males. Certain anatomical features of female bodies can increase the stress on the knee and, consequently, the ACL. The features include:
- Wider hips. This increases the knee’s force when performing activities like leaping or changing direction quickly.
- Thighbones that are smaller The notch at the top of the thighbone where the ACL is located is narrower for females—the less space available for the ACL when moving increases the possibility of tearing.
- A more excellent ligament and joint flexibility: The looseness may be genetic, while others could be due to hormones, for instance, estrogen. Laxity can make the ACL tissues more prone to tear.
Proprioceptive and neuromuscular control
These are fancy words for explaining how the body – specifically, its nervous system, regulates the muscles and determines the body’s position within space at any moment. These capabilities are essential in landings, where many ACL injuries happen.The acl athlete with weak proprioception or neuromuscular control are at more risk for ACL injury. The positive side is that they can enhance their abilities by training.
Faulty landing mechanics
Poor landing mechanics may dramatically increase the chance of suffering an ACL injury if you explicitly land using:
- Legs are locked on the knee (with no bend)
- Knees pointed towards each one (knock-kneed)
- Feet flat
Luckily, athletes can improve their landing skills through proper training.
Core strength is built by muscles surrounding the hips, pelvis, and abdominal region. Athletes who aren’t able to stabilize their hips and trunk put more stress upon their knees, putting more stress on the ACL. It can also be improved with training.
Big quadriceps, tiny hamstrings
The presence of mighty quadriceps (muscles located in the upper thighs in front) and weak hamstrings (muscles located behind the thighs) forces the shinbone to move forward from its original position, increasing the chance of sustaining an ACL injury
Environmental risk factors
Risk factors that can be attributed to an environmental exposure that could lead to an ACL injury are:
Inflicting a blow on the leg isn’t in the control of an the acl athlete. Fortunately, this is less than 30% of ACL injuries. The rest of the 70 percent is due to an awkward landing or poorly executed change of direction.
Dry and warm weather
Studies have revealed dry weather can increase the contact between the athletic footwear and the ground. This means that athletes are more likely become stuck when moving or pivoting and increase the risk of tearing an ACL.
Artificial turf can cause more friction between shoes and ground than a natural one.
Strategies to lower the risk.
Athletes can decrease the risk of ACL injuries using the techniques described below.
Address imbalances in muscle strength
One of the keys to lessening injuries is to strengthen those postural muscles.
Most athletes working in physical therapy have overdeveloped quadriceps and weak gluteal and hamstring muscles. This is normal because many activities are geared towards muscles located inside your body. Training with bridges, clamshells, or deadlifts is an excellent way to correct the imbalance.
Stabilize the core
Stabilizing the core muscles – abdominal muscles and spine, pelvis, and hips – is crucial in reducing the risk of injury. The core muscles provide the basis for leg moves. Activities like the plank or the Superman can help improve the stability of your core.
Practice soft landings
Incorrect landing mechanics are significant contributors to ACL injuries to the ACL. Many athletes fall with knees collapsing backward and outward past their toes or not bending their knees. These postures stress the knees.
Proper landing mechanics include:
- The knee is in line with the second toe.
- A little flexed hips and knees
- Upright trunk
Athletes should be practicing single- and double-leg landings and landings in games-like scenarios. Soft landings are great landings!
A proper warmup will prepare your body to take on demanding demands in any game. A dynamic warmup may consist of:
- Jogging for five to 10 mins to boost blood flow to muscles
- Active stretches, such as walking lunges, walking lunges, and “Frankenstein walk. “
- The essential element of any program for reducing injuries in practice. The neuromuscular system requires repeated practice to make proper mechanics natural. Learning to perform exercises correctly and the correct landing technique requires concentration. Young athletes must be very diligent, as their bodies are constantly changing.
- Since over 70% of ACL injuries aren’t caused by contact, athletes can reduce the risk of one happening by changing their training and moving. Should you or your kid have questions regarding exercise or technique, look into whether the school has a qualified athletic trainer or talk to a licensed physical therapist.
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