Every athlete needs to get to know their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)—one of the four ligaments connecting your knee joint to the shinbone and thighbone. If your ACL is in working order, it can be your best friend, providing 90% of your knee’s stability; but, if it’s injured, it can be your worst enemy, sidelining you for the unforeseeable future. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, Americans sustain between 200,000 and 250,000 ACL injuries a year, and that number has been on the rise for the past twenty years. The increase may be due to the rise in sedentary lifestyles, which can lead to weak muscles and an increased risk of injury, reports an article in the Washington Post. The article also mentions that even if you lead an active lifestyle but stick to one sport, you may still be at risk for injuring your ACL—focusing on one sport can lead certain muscles to be overdeveloped, while unused muscles remain underdeveloped.
The good news is that most ACL injuries are avoidable. Reportedly, 70 to 80% of ACL injuries are caused by improper movement, not by collisions with other players. To prevent this, exercises that increase your awareness of proper balance and technique are crucial. Jumping exercises that use both legs and help strengthen your knees are a good place to start. However, since many sports, like soccer, require lots of time spent on one leg while you run and kick, it’s also important to do single-leg jumping exercises. Another exercise, “cutting and sprinting,” is important because it trains the body to decelerate, stop, and change direction—all movements you’ll experience on the field or court. Beyond the knees, strengthening exercises like squats, hamstring and glute exercises, and upper-body work can give you the support you need while performing complex moves.
Source: Washington Post